AMSTERDAM – Damning new research claims to have uncovered serious employment violations and ‘poverty wages’ at H&M gold suppliers. Researchers interviewed garment factory workers from Bulgaria, India, Cambodia and Turkey. Interviewed workers in India and Turkey earn about a third and in Cambodia less than one-half of the estimated living wage, claim the researchers, while Bulgaria interviewed workers’ salary at H&M’s gold supplier is claimed to be “not even 10 per cent of what would be required for workers and their families to have decent lives.”
The findings, published by Clean Clothes Campaign, arrive at a time when H&M has just published a press note suggesting it has reached almost one million workers with its ‘fair living wage’ strategy.
Among the alarming findings of the new research are that one third of Indian and two thirds of interviewees in Cambodia – who work at factories listed as H&M’s platinum suppliers – had fainted at work.
“The wages are so low that we have to work overtime just to cover our basic needs,” a worker at an H&M gold supplier factory in India told the researchers.
Overtime hours in three out of the six researched factories often exceed the legal maximum and working on Sundays is frequent in all four countries included in the research. In Bulgaria, workers reported that they have to work overtime to earn the statutory minimum wage.
“You enter the factory at 8 in the morning, but you never know when you will be able to leave. Sometimes we go home at 4 AM,” said one worker making H&M clothes at Koush Moda, an H&M gold supplier factory in Bulgaria.
Interviews with workers and desk research were conducted within the ‘Turn Around, H&M!’ campaign coordinated by Clean Clothes Campaign and supported by the International Labor Rights Forum and WeMove.EU.
The campaign was launched in May 2018 amid claims that H&M had reneged on a living wage commitment made in 2013.
“We knew that H&M had not met its commitment by the beginning of this year, but some of the concrete findings about wages and related working conditions in H&M supplier factories still came as a shock. H&M needs to take action immediately to stop the scandal of poverty wages and workers’ rights violations,” said Bettina Musiolek of Clean Clothes Campaign who coordinated this research.
“H&M released a boastful statement last week that was a clear preemptive strike after we had sent them the findings we are publishing today. Their claims of progress are based on deception about the goals they set in 2013. Essentially, they are trying to erase those 850,000 workers who were promised a living wage by 2018 from collective memory. We will not let that happen,” added Neva Nahtigal of Clean Clothes Campaign’s International Office.
“It is now clearer than ever that H&M’s words cannot be trusted. Instead of empty public relations talk, we want to see transparent changes in the real wages of workers in H&M’s supply chain. As we have written to the company’s top ranks before, they need to publish a road map with time-bound, measurable wage level increase targets, detailing how H&M will change their purchasing practices to make sure workers get a living wage,” added Judy Gearhart, executive director at ILRF.