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Letter to the High Street

Dear High Street,

Before I buy any of your products please tell me whether the garment worker who produced your clothes:

  • is safe in their working environment
  • has freedom of movement
  • is able to negotiate and discuss publicly their pay and working conditions without manipulation, harassment or threat
  • earns enough money in a 48 hour working week after tax to cover the basic essentials of food, clothing, a home, education, medical needs and a pension

Many garment workers earn less than 25% of the wage needed to support a family's basic needs even when working full time. To obtain a fair living wage they need to negotiate a 400% wage increase. Do you accept that attempts to negotiate such a high increase are likely to be rejected, particularly in countries where strikes are met with police intimidation and brutality?

If the current pay rate of your garment workers requires more than a 20% pay increase to achieve the minimum living wage, are you shareholders willing to invest in subsidising the difference, adopting a revised business strategy if necessary to top up garment worker wages and collaborating with other brands and suppliers to eradicate wage slavery?

Are you willing to make publicly available, and especially to those involved in making your clothes:

1. Your signature on the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord and a list of the health and safety measures invested in throughout your supply chain, including: your own head office; every shop floor; every factory floor

2.  Reports that include the percentage of your supply chain traced to date, including cut-make-trim, spinning, weaving and dyeing and the harvest of cotton

3.  The names, addresses and contact details of supplier facilities, subcontracted suppliers and labour agents managing home-working facilities

4.  For each region involved in your supply chain:

• actual pay rate;
• actual wage paid for a 48 hour working week;
• the minimum living wage calculated by an independent assessor;
• the additional cost per garment of subsidising the difference in pay between the actual pay rate and the minimum living wage rate;
• percentage of employment contracts signed, explained and understood by workers and witnessed by someone unaffiliated with their employer;
• content of each type of contract used to employ or sub-contract workers;
• percentage of workers on each type of contract by supplier;
• the rate at which piece-work is paid;
• an independent audit of piece-work where the auditor undertakes the work required to ensure it yields a living wage within a maximum number of hours in a working week at the appropriate skill level;
• reports on the piece-rate and the number of hours it takes on average to obtain a living wage;
• the maximum number of hours in a working week, including required breaks and holidays;
• the number of hours worked in a day, beyond which over-time is paid;
• the rate of over-time pay;
• Grievance and Dispute Resolution Procedures

5.  A report from an impartial investigator, like the Fair Wear Foundation, on the impact your activities have on human rights throughout the supply chain and the real impact on workers before and after adverse impacts on human rights are responded to, using measurable indicators

6.  Support for legislation that requires all brands and retailers with garment supply chains to be transparent and adopt ethical practices

I very much look forward to your response

All the very best

Your favourite customer

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