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H&M workers protest for a fair wage depicts abusing reality of fashion industry

The recent strike action by H&M staff from Auckland, New Zealand showed that the global fast fashion brand H&M has failed its promise of providing a living wage by 2018.

HM-Protestors-Auckland
Figure: H&M workers protesting outside the commercial bay store. Courtesy: Michael Andrew

The second-largest global retailer of fast fashion products, but here in New Zealand, the brand have made every effort possible evade paying a cent more than minimum wage despite huge profits. H&M was able to afford paying staff a living wage, despite this chooses not to pay.

Workers and union representatives have been involved in lengthy discussions with H&M, which has offered to increase the pay of new workers to $20.20 per hour – 20c above the minimum wage.

The wages of employees of longer than a year would increase from $20.55 to $21.30 per hour. While the ongoing campaign for the living wage resulted in 14 H&M workers being suspended last month.

Union leaders pointed out that H&M ask its workers to work on the frontline during a pandemic but doesn’t think they are worth a living wage – that’s an employer telling their staff that their wellbeing is of no value whatsoever and they are disposable as the products they sell.

H&M-workers-protest-fair-wage

Besides the brand has been accused of understaffing its New Zealand stores since COVID-19 emerged, forcing workers to take on multiple roles beyond their job descriptions.

FIRST Union said H&M staff have been negotiating a new agreement for several weeks after struggling with their current pay.

Nathalie Jaques, Organizer, FIRST Union says, “A new Collective Agreement remains unsigned despite months of attempts to negotiate.”

“We’re just sick of this company’s attitude toward their own workers, people have had enough and are making a stand,” Tali Williams, Retail Sector Secretary, FIRST Union told to a media.

Mackenzie O’Sullivan, union delegate for the Commercial Bay store, said, “We’re asking for a living wage and more staff. But what we’ve found is that team members are being replaced but their hours aren’t being matched, so we’re continuing to drop hours which adds extra responsibility to current staff, who again, aren’t being compensated for the extra work.”

O’Sullivan said, “Even with the fewer staff, the Commercial Bay store has been meeting its budget, so he wasn’t convinced by H&M’s explanation that it couldn’t pay more because its profits had been crippled by COVID-19.”

A living wage, recognized by the UN as a human right, is a wage that is sufficient to afford a decent standard of living for a worker and their family.

Clean Clothes Campaign new research findings claim that many apparel workers making H&M’s clothes live below the poverty wage, forcing many employees to work overtime – in spite of H&M’s commitment to ensuring workers in its supply chain are paid a living wage.

The new research, based on interviews with 62 people in six H&M supplier factories in Bulgaria, Turkey, India and Cambodia, forms part of the campaign “Turn Around H&M” launched by CCC and International Labour Rights Forum on Labour Day 2018.

Despite the brand’s recent claims of progress, workers in India and Turkey earn about a third and in Cambodia less than one-half of the estimated living wage. In Bulgaria, workers’ salary at H&M’s “gold supplier” is not even 10% of what would be required for workers and their families to have decent lives.

As a global retailer that literally makes millions of dollars, should have taken its staff and workers responsibility.

This common phenomenon is widespread among the fashion industry. A survey by Fashion Checker showed that around 93% of surveyed brands are not paying garment workers a living wage.

Legal minimum wages in garment-producing countries all over the world fall short of a living wage, meaning garment workers are unable to provide the most basic needs for themselves and their families. The gap between the legal minimum wage and a living wage is ever growing.

There are many garment-producing countries that have no legal minimum wage at all. Governments of RMG producing countries have no incentive to raise minimum wages, fearing that higher minimum wages will lead to brands shifting their orders to countries where labor costs even less. This is the reality of the fashion industry.

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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