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ARTEIXO – The world’s largest apparel retailer, Inditex, has put its weight behind the fight for living wages in garment sourcing hubs. The Spanish business, which owns the Zara brand, has also backed calls for stronger dialogue and collective bargaining between unions, garment factories and brands. The business has issued a strongly worded statement in the context of current wage negotiations in Bangladesh, where there is at present a huge gap between the wage demands of workers and what factories have put on the table.

The Inditex statement said: “We believe in the right of workers to a living wage, in Bangladesh and in all the markets from which we source. Therefore we expect the collective demands of workers, expressed through their legitimate unions including Industriall Bangladesh Council, to be taken into account, and the current negotiations used to reach agreement for a fair increase in the minimum wage that preserves the right of workers to a living wage.

“Fair wages are essential if we are to improve conditions for people working in the garment industry, and Inditex supports the current demand by the garment workers in Bangladesh to increase their wages.

Inditex also pointed out its participation in ACT (Action, Collaboration, Transformation) – an agreement launched in 2014 between global brands and trade unions which aims to improve garment industry wages through collective bargaining, supported by world class manufacturing standards and responsible purchasing practices. Through ACT, Inditex, Industriall and other global brands and retailers have earmarked Bangladesh as a priority country to promote collective bargaining as the most effective tool to reach wage agreements between employers, employees and their respective representatives.

Our next printed magazine includes an in-depth update on ACT, an initiative we believe offers the best chance yet of securing fairer wages in garment production hubs. Interviewed on the issue, Jenny Holdcroft, assistant general secretary at Industriall, told us: “We are testing the waters in Cambodia and Myanmar but we have to be clear that this is a process that will take years. We are going to do it properly in a systemic manner.

“Cambodia is the most advanced as they are currently in negotiations around an industry- wide agreement which would be a first step.

“In Myanmar, we are having a meeting convened by the Labour Minister next month. From a government perspective, there is a lot to be gained by having a system which places the onus on brands to raise unit prices.”

To read the full interview, you can subscribe to Apparel Insider HERE

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