MELBOURNE – A new report by Oxfam Australian has called out leading apparel brands for failing to make credible commitments on living wages. In its ‘Naughty or Nice’ Christmas list, the charity group names Just Jeans, Peter Alexander, Jay Jays, Myer, Rivers, Katies and W. Lane on its ‘naughtiest list’ for – it claims – not only having failed on living wage commitments, but also having not taken the step of becoming transparent by publicly opening up their factory lists. Inditex, owner of Zara and the world’s largest apparel retailer, is also on this list.
Oxfam Australia labour rights lead Sarah Rogan said: “While a number of iconic Australian brands have come on board and taken the significant first step towards ensuring the payment of living wages, others are dragging their feet.”
Rogan said brands on Oxfam’s nice list – including Kmart, Cotton On, Bonds, Gorman and David Jones – had made commitments that included a clear and appropriate definition of a living wage, and at least two or three key milestones and timelines to reach those significant steps. The list is somewhat compromised in our view, however, given that it contains H&M – a brand which made a clear commitment on living wages then quietly reneged on it.
“While the ‘nice’ brands are to be commended for leading the way, there is still a long way to go to ensuring the payment of living wages that will allow the women making out clothes to live decent lives,” Rogan said. “The fact is that right now, not all workers are being paid enough to afford a decent life for themselves and their families.”
A living wage is generally classified as enough money being earned in a standard week to cover basic essentials including food, housing, healthcare, clothing, transport, education and some money for unexpected events.
“A living wage is not a luxury, but is a minimum that all working people should be paid if they are to escape the cycle of poverty,” Rogan said.
Oxfam’s Naughty or Nice List started in 2013 after the Rana Plaza factory collapse, focussing on factory safety and demanding brands sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord. The List then shifted to supply chain transparency, including looking at whether brands had released the names and locations of their supplier factories.