Six years after the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, working conditions for textile workers are still sub-par, the university of Sheffield concludes in a new report. Some major chains perform way better than others.
Progress is unclear
After the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex, which killed over a thousand textile workers, multinationals quickly made a long list of promises. However, many of which still have not been kept: the people who make the garments are still living below the poverty line and union representation does not amount to much. It is difficult to find out which brands are really living up to the promises: in the wake of the disaster there were many initiatives to improve the working conditions in the garment factories, but professor Genevieve LeBaron is under the impression that some of the brands only joined up for publicity reasons.
There seems to be a lack of transparency surrounding the applied criteria: many brands and local governments promised to pay the workers a living wage, but opinions differ on what that actually constitutes. That is one of the conclusions of an analysis of the manufacturing conditions at twenty major fashion brands by the university of Sheffield, about which the Financial Times reports.
The report also says that the fashion brands are not the only ones to blame: the countries themselves want to keep those wages as low as possible in order to keep a hold on the textile industry. In Cambodia, the official minimum wage is still less than half of a living wage - in Bangladesh, it is only a quarter. When employees recently took to the streets to protest these conditions, their protests were beaten down harshly.
H&M and C&A have best criteria
What would be a decent minimum wage? According to the Sheffield researchers, the Clean Clothes Campaign uses the most robust criteria. The same standard is applied by brands such as H&M, C&A and G-Star Raw, and so they score best in the study.
Other fashion groups that filled out a survey to collaborate with the study include Adidas, Gucci, Inditex and Primark. The Spanish division of the Clean Clothes Campaign recently revealed that Inditex seamstresses only earn 178 euros per month for 65-hour work weeks. Often the factories employ minors and those who start working there, often do so without a contract.