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STOCKHOLM – H&M has responded to international calls for it to fulfil previous living wage pledges by issuing a statement which raises far more questions than it answers. As H&M’s shareholders gather in Stockholm for their annual meeting, an international coalition behind the ‘Turn Around, H&M!’ campaign is calling on H&M’s shareholders to fulfil its 2013 living wage commitment.

In its 2013 ‘Roadmap towards a fair living wage’ H&M said: “H&M’s strategic suppliers should have pay structures in place to pay a fair living wage by 2018. By then, this will reach around 850,000 textile workers.”

The Clean Clothes Campaign claims this laudable goal has now disappeared from H&M’s corporate communication, and the original documents have disappeared from the brand’s website. “H&M corporate communication now refers only to the introduction of the Fair Wage Method by supplier factories,” say the CCC. “The 850,000 workers and their actual incomes are no longer a part of the picture.”

So what does H&M say about the issue of living wages now? In a statement, the company said: “In 2013, H&M launched a strategy to support the development of fair living wages in the textile industry. We are getting closer to the first milestone in this important and long-term work. What did we promise in 2013 and what progress have we made?”

The statement then discusses the issue of having democratically elected worker representatives in place at its suppliers as part of the goal. On the specific issue of wages, H&M adds: “The second part of the goal is about helping the supplier factories we work with the most to implement transparent wage management systems that facilitate wage negotiations, and wages that take each worker’s skills, experience and responsibility into account. We aim to have this in place by the end of 2018 and we are on our way to achieve this goal. This has so far been carried out at 227 factories (representing 40 per cent of our product volume) reaching 375,000 workers.”

We have contacted H&M for further comment.

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