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ISTANBUL – Leading global fashion brands Inditex, H&M and ASOS have pledged to help develop collective bargaining mechanisms and better conditions for over 600,000 garment and footwear workers in South-East Europe. The three retailers, which are working with IndustriALL Global Union and industriAll Europe, met in Turkey this week as part of an EU supported project aimed at improving worker conditions in Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia.

The European Commission is supporting the 2-year industriAll Europe project entitled ‘Strengthening the capacity of trade unions in South-East Europe to improve wages and working conditions in the garment and footwear sectors’.

A mapping carried out as the first phase of the project earlier this year revealed there are more than 600,000 garment and footwear workers in South-East Europe. But unionisation levels are as low as 3-4 per cent, there are few collective agreements, and workers’ salaries in some countries are around 200 euros per month.

IndustriAll Europe and IndustriALL Global Union agreed to work closely to address the problems, work with key garment and footwear brands sourcing from South-East Europe being seen as an important step for facilitating progress on the central goals of the project. All three above brands have already signed global framework agreements (GFA) with IndustriALL Global Union.

“We are looking for win-win solutions for the workers with good conditions, companies with sustainable business, and governments in the form of economic growth and more equal societies. South-East European countries need to create domestic demand through the payment of living wages”, said Luc Triangle, general secretary of industriAll Europe.

“We see this project and cooperation with the key brands as part of our global broader strategy to profoundly change the garment and footwear industry and make it sustainable worldwide. Global framework agreements and the ACT living wage initiative are essential tools in this process,” added Kemal Özkan, assistant general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union.

IndustriALL Global Union has signed GFAs with six garment and footwear brands, Inditex, H&M, ASOS, Tchibo, Esprit and Mizuno.

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