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Clean Clothes launches better wage campaign

  • Published at 05:13 am October 22nd, 2013

The Clean Clothes Campaign on Sunday launched a new campaign across Europe calling on clothing companies to “Pay a Living Wage” to garment workers. The campaign is scheduled to continue till October 28 in 15 European countries.

The week of action would see campaigners across Europe promoting a consumers’ living wage petition at press conferences, via social networks, films, street actions, conferences and celebrity testimonials, said a CCC statement.

The campaign was launched at a time when Bangladesh is working on fixing minimum wage for the RMG workers.

As per the wage board for the garment workers, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has proposed increase of Tk600 or 20% from the existing minimum wage of Tk3,000 per month. Leaders of RMG workers, however, have proposed Tk8,114 as the minimum wage.

In the face of growing labour unrest, the BGMEA is likely to place a fresh proposal to the board on October 27.

The CCC called upon clothing brands and companies to take action by setting concrete and measurable steps throughout their supply chain to ensure garment workers get paid a living wage.

It also called upon national governments in garment producing countries to make sure minimum wages are set at living wage standards.

CCC urged the European governments to implement regulation that make sure companies are responsible for the impact they have on the lives of workers in their supply chain, including their right to earn a living wage.

According to the CCC, a living wage means that the wage a worker earns in a standard working week (never exceeding 48 hours) is enough to provide for them and their family’s basic needs – including housing, education and healthcare as well as some discretionary income for when the unexpected happens.

The campaign comes exactly six months after the devastating collapse of Rana Plaza, in which 1,133 Bangladeshi workers were killed and over 2,500 sustained injuries.

In Bangladesh, there are around 4m people, of which 80% are women, work in the garment industry. The current minimum wage is just Tk3,000 (€28.60) a month.

“A living wage should be earned before overtime and allow a garment worker to be able to feed herself and her family, pay the rent, pay for healthcare and education and have a small amount of savings for when something unexpected happens.” says Dr. Jeroen Merk, research and policy coordinator at Clean Clothes Campaign.

“Companies must take steps to ensure they are paying a living wage in the countries they source from. Governments must ensure that minimum wages are set at levels that allow people to live with dignity. While low labour costs continue to be exploited throughout the industry it remains impossible to argue that the garment industry is benefiting those who work within it.”

For many workers, the lack of a living wage means they must work long hours to earn overtime or bonuses and cannot risk refusing work due to unsafe working conditions or taking time off for ill health, he noted.

Over 15m people are employed within the garment industry in Asia alone, with the region accounting for more than 60% of garment production worldwide. Yet, as the campaign highlights the people sustaining the industry in factories and workplaces continue to be paid poverty wages.

Low wages mean that workers often have to rely on loans just to make ends meet and have no savings to use if they find themselves out of work, due to illness, unexpected factory closure or if, as with Rana Plaza, there is a disaster such as building collapse or fire.