Rapporten Tailored Wages fra 2014, som er udarbejdet af Clean Clothes Campaign og The Asia Floor Wage Alliance undersøger 50 af Europas førende brands og deres tiltag indenfor leveløn.

Resumé af rapporten Tailored Wages, 2014


Det meste tøj som sælges i butikkerne er syet af fattige arbejdere i Asien, som arbejder for nogle få kroner i timen. Lønnen udgør typisk mindre end 1% af prisen i butikkerne. Der er lang vej igen før arbejderne kan få en løn, der kan dække deres basale behov, en såkaldt leveløn.
To danske tøjfirmaer er med i rapporten, Bestseller1 og IC Companys. Ingen af dem placerer sig godt i undersøgelsen. Ud af 40 mulige point scorer Bestseller 5,5 og IC Companys 2,5.


I det hele taget er niveauet lavt. Ingen af de deltagende tøjfirmaer scorer mere end 18 point. Der er alvorlig brug for at tøjfirmaerne tager deres ansvar på sig og starter konkrete tiltag, som kan gøre en forskel på lønområdet. Fire tøjfirmaer (Inditex, Switcher, Marks & Spencer og Tchibo) skiller sig ud ved at have startet tiltag, som vil kunne lede til bedre lønninger hos syerskerne.


Switcher (Schweiz) betaler en ekstra procent af sine ordrer hos en bestemt fabrik ind til en pulje. Den ekstra betaling bliver fordelt til alle fabrikkens arbejdere, og dermed imødekommes en af problematikkerne i levelønsarbejdet, nemlig, at alle fabrikker har flere kunder, også kunder som ikke vil betale det ekstra der skal til for at opnå levelønsniveauer for arbejderne. Puljen bliver fordelt en gang årligt, og giver selvsagt ikke alle en leveløn, men Switcher har med deres tiltag taget et vigtigt skridt. De arbejder nu på at få de øvrige kunder til at følge deres eksempel.
- "Switcher skiller sig ud ved at turde at tage tyren ved hornene og forsøge sig med at betale lidt ekstra. Deres tiltag bør være inspiration til videre arbejde for at opnå leveløn på fabrikkerne. Vi har brug for at mange andre tøjfirmaer tør tage stafetten og være med til at betale, hvad en leveløn koster", siger Helle Løvstø Severinsen fra Clean Clothes Campaign Danmark

 

Hvad er en leveløn?

Clean Clothes Campaign, som en del af Asien Floor Wage (AFW) Alliance, definerer en leveløn som følger:

"Løn og ydelser, der udbetales for en standard arbejdsuge skal mindst møde juridiske og/eller industri-minimumsstandarder og skal altid være tilstrækkeligt til at opfylde basale behov for arbejdstagere og deres familier, samt indeholde et rådighedsbeløb til fx opsparing."

 

Mere specifikt om en leveløn:

  • Gælder for alle arbejdstagere, og betyder at der ikke udbetales løn under levelønsniveau
  • Skal kunne optjenes på en almindelig arbejdsuge af højst 48 timers varighed
  • Er den grundlæggende nettoløn, efter skat og (hvis relevant), før bonusser, godtgørelser eller overarbejde
  • Dækker de basale behov i en familie på fire (to voksne, to børn)
  • Indeholder yderligere 10% af omkostningerne til basale behov til rådighedsbeløb til fx opsparing.


En status på arbejdet med leveløn

I en håndfuld sager fandtes nogle interessante projekter igangsat af brands, der faktisk medførte stigende realløn i arbejdernes lommer.
Dog, var der ingen egentlige overordnede fremskridt. Generelt er arbejdet med højere løn til tekstilarbejderne stadig kun på forsøgsstadiet og projekter, der faktisk at sætter lønnen op er stadig sjældne. Der er meget få brands, der har forsøgt at virkelig inkorporere arbejdet med leveløn i deres virksomhed.


Fordelingen i rapporten ser således ud:


Virksomheder, som viser konkrete resultater og er godt i gang med arbejdet:
Ingen tøjfirmaer er placeret i denne kategori.

Virksomheder, som har startet arbejdet for at øge lønningerne, men endnu ikke gør nok:
Inditex, Marks & Spencer, Switcher, Tchibo.

Virksomheder, som omtaler leveløn, men uden overbevisende forslag til forbedringer:
Adidas Group, H & M, Primark, Puma, New Look.

Virksomheder, som anerkender behovet for en leveløn, men stadig ikke har nogen overbevisende tiltag:
Asics, Bestseller, C&A, Gap, G-Star, Lidl, New Balance, Nike, Next, Takko Fashion, Tesco.

Virksomheder, som ikke har nogen tiltag for at sikre arbejderne en leveløn:
Aldi, Carrefour, Charles Vögele, Decathlon, Esprit, Gucci, IC Companys, Mango, Orsay, Pimkie, Pentland, Promod, VF Corporation, Versace, WE Fashion.

Virksomheder, som ikke ønskede at svare på undersøgelsen:
Armani, Asda, Benetton Group, Celio, Desigual, Diesel, Hugo Boss, Kik, Levi Strauss & Co, LPP SA, Mexx, Replay, S.Oliver, Tod's, Vuitton.

 

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Noter

1 Der mangler i rapporten nogle tilføjelser til Bestsellers profil:
Det drejer sig bl.a. om Bestsellers deltagelse i den danske partnerskabsaftale om bedre forhold for tekstilarbejdere i Bangladesh, Bestsellers deltagelse i konferencer omkring leveløn samt Bestsellers planer for at inkludere leveløn som en del af deres 2020 strategi.
Herudover giver Bestseller gerne, i modsætning til hvad der står i rapporten, oplysninger om antallet af fabrikker og hvilke lande de får produceret i.
Fejlen rykker dog ikke nævneværdigt ved Bestsellers placering i rapporten.

 

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Rapport

Tailored Wages - Are the big brands paying the people who make our clothes enough to live on? (PDF, 58 sider)
 

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The levels of wages in essential for workes in export sectors as a potential exit from poverty. Companues have a responsibitly to support this development and workers rights. To have a positive impact companies need to change their assumptions and practices, and adopt a more innovative and collaborative agenda.

Executive summary by DIEH, Report by DIEH, 2015

 

Addressing low wages in global supply chains1 is a fundamental challenge to ethical trade. The ability to earn enough in a standard week for a worker and his or her family to cover basic needs and live with dignity is recognised as a fundamental human right2. Yet for all too many workers low incomes and poverty wages are the reality and the share of wealth that goes to workers is steadily falling. Falling wage shares, low pay and income inequality are truly a global concern, and pose a significant risk to shared and sustained prosperity. How can we talk meaningfully about ‘doing ethical trade’ where wages are firmly stuck below the level at which people can live decent lives, and companies feel that it is beyond their power to change this?

The hardship that low wages cause for workers and their families is not without cost to business. Low pay commonly equates with high labour turnover and restricted skills development, limiting product quality; there is increased risk of labour unrest; and customer-facing businesses risk increasing reputational damage from exposés about goods produced by chronically low paid workers.

For workers in low-income and industrialising economies, waged work in export sectors is a potential exit from poverty, and contributes to the country’s economic development. Companies have a responsibility to support these benefits by providing decent, regular, adequately paid employment.
If they fail to do so, in-work poverty and imbalances of power at local and global levels become entrenched.
 

A new agenda on supply chain wages
This report offers a new agenda on global supply chain wages, outlining practical steps for companies – both large and small – to take, informed by the framework established under
the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

The UNGP framework sets down the following two challenges3 for any company to address living wages in its supply chain. First, to understand the root causes that may give rise to adverse impacts on wages. Second, on the basis of this analysis, to identify how a company can use its influence to reduce adverse impacts.

A thorough analysis of low wages in global supply chains suggests that a number of factors combine to keep wages low. Companies can have an impact. But to do so they need to change their assumptions and practices, and adopt a more innovative and collaborative agenda. Companies buying from global supply chains need to:

  • Coordinate and collaborate. Coordinate between themselves, and collaborate effectively with suppliers, employers associations, trade unions, NGOs and national governments, including in relation to setting adequate national minimum wages.
  • Actively support collective bargaining. Support the development of durable, local collective bargaining mechanisms and institutions – trade unions in particular.
  • Review and revise short-term commercial practices to safeguard long-term, sustainable business performance.
  • Take a sector-wide approach, linking up advances made at supplier workplace-level to broader institutional developments


Focus on implementation, not calculation

For companies, benchmarking wages can be an important first step - part of due diligence under the UNGP framework - to understand wage levels and ascertain and prioritise potential adverse impacts, in order to stimulate collective action. One of these benchmarks should be what workers themselves judge to be an adequate wage, ascertained through their representatives.

Ultimately, however, the challenge is not how to calculate living wages, but how to implement them.

Wage benchmarks need to be directly linked to support for the development of collective bargaining mechanisms that ensure wages reflect and keep up with increases in the cost of living.

This requires participatory wage-setting processes such as collective bargaining that allow wages to be regularly revised. Wages which are adequate to meet household basic needs need to be locally determined, and locally ‘owned’. Workers know best what they need to support their families.

Wage levels also need to be understood in the context of working hours and transparency of pay systems. Workers should not have to work excessive hours in order to earn a living wage.

If workers are not clear how their pay is calculated, they may miss out when productivity and quality improve, providing a better margin for their employers.


Support effective institutions...
The focus must be the development of local labour market institutions4 - including tripartite minimum wage setting mechanisms and collective bargaining - which can reconcile the interests of the diverse parties involved. Companies can contribute through promoting ‘social dialogue’ enabled by freedom of association and, emerging from this, collective bargaining on terms and conditions of employment.

The development of such institutions requires all stakeholders, including companies, to make a candid assessment of current power imbalances and to support the capacity of both workers and employers to make these institutions work. This is a long- term programme which should be supplemented by immediate interventions, such as influencing policy-making debates on minimum wage setting and industrial competitiveness.

Ultimately, adequate wages in global value chains will be achieved by institutionalising effective wage floors – establishing levels below which wages cannot be allowed
to fall - across sectors and across regions. This is the joint responsibility of governments, companies (buyers and employers) and trade unions. Wage floors ensure that competition will not be distorted to the disadvantage of the enterprises, sectors or national economies that enable workers and their families to meet their needs.

...through locally driven, sector-wide collaboration
The joint ETIs (JETIs) experience suggests that, in many supply chains, it is unlikely that individual companies will be in a position to promote and effect change on this scale, or at this level. While companies have a responsibility to identify and mitigate adverse human rights impacts through their own supply chains, the best and most appropriate response to inadequate wages will almost always require sector-wide collaboration.

 

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References

1 In this report we use the phrases ‘supply chain’ and ‘value chain’, following the business literature, with different technical meanings. The ‘supply chain’ describes the flow of products from suppliers to consumers, with a primary focus on costs of materials and efficient delivery: a supply chain is what ensures that the product gets to market. The ‘value chain’ describes the flow from the consumer to the source, where the consumer (the ‘market’) is seen as the source of value: a value chain focuses on who creates value and who gets the value in the chain. It may be surmised that the wage issues described here concern the integration of supply chain management with value chain management.
2 “Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.” Universal Declaration of Human Rights
3 It also sets other challenges such as providing redress to workers whose human rights have been denied or abused.
4 We use ‘labour market institutions’ to refer inter alia to collective bargaining and minimum-wage setting mechanisms, following ILO (2015), Labour Markets, Institutions and Inequality: Building just societies in the 21st century: ‘Good governance, social stabilization and economic justice are not luxuries that weigh down and impede the process of development. They are the essence of development itself.’

 

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Who is DIEH

Practical Solutions to Complex Problems
The Danish Ethical Trading Initiative was established in 2008 and has grown into a strong organisation with more than 60 members that operate across a range of sectors.

Multi-stakeholder collaboration
As a multi-stakeholder organisation, we gather Danish companies, public organisations, trade unions and NGO’s to tackle ethical challenges by developing sustainable solutions that result in responsible production, responsible purchasing practices, and responsible supply chain management in global value chains.

Sustainable Development across international trade
Our goal is to advance and promote international trade in accordance with human – and labour rights, and to facilitate companies and organisations in their efforts to foster a sustainable development in developing countries and growth economies.

We uphold International guidelines
Throughout our work, we contribute to the integration of international principles and guidelines such as UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; ISO 26000, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and UN Global Compact

 

 

Report

Living Wages in Global Supply Chains - A New Agenda for Business, DIEH, (PDF, 23 pages)

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The garment industry is the largest sector of the Cambodian economy, representing Cambodia’s biggest export with an industry employing hundreds of thousands of workers. Like those in Bangladesh, Cambodia’s factories have structural problems while the garment workers suffer inhumane working and living conditions. Striking workers have been protesting repeatedly to demand a decent living wage. Working six days a week, 8 hours a day, they carry a monthly wage of 61 USD, barely enough to meet their basic living expenses. According to the report „Shop ‘Til They Drop” the employees consume around half the calories needed for garment factory work, while protein intake fell well below half the basic human need. The recommended 3,000-calorie diet alone would cost around USD 75 a month. The serious malnourishment of the industry’s over 400,000 people - mostly women and girls - together with poor working conditions have caused numerous incidents of mass faintings and collapses in the factories over recent years.

Text and images by Steffi Eckelmann, 2013

 

The Interviews

The garment workers I interviewed and photographed for this photo spread are mostly living in rented rooms in a Phnom Penh suburb nearby garment factories producing clothes for international brands. Three to six women share just one room, not bigger than 8 square metres, often even without a window or any fresh air. No furniture, simply plastic sheets on the floor to sleep on, a toilet and portable gas stove with some pots for cooking. It is washing, eating and sleeping in cramped conditions for years. The women share the cost of the room, of water and electricity which sums up to 30-40 USD per person per month.

They are working from 7am until 4pm with one-hour lunch break. Overtime ranges from two to four hours but easily extends to six hours and often includes Sunday work or night shifts particularly during peak season. The extended working hours adversely affects the health and wellbeing of the workers. The list of occupational injuries and illnesses is long and leads from fatigue, stress, depression to general health complaints (headache, stomach ache, nausea, dizziness, chest disease, sore throat, gastrointestinal diseases), to cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, chronic infections and all-cause mortality.


 

Photography as Activism

My name is Steffi Eckelmann. I am a freelance photographer from Germany, currently living in Munich. Being a photographer means for me using the medium photography to raise awareness about injustice in the world to eventually help making the world a better place. Because of a scholarship I was able to spend 5 months in Cambodia in 2012 supporting different NGOs with my visual skills. One of my greatest concern ever since I read the book „No Logo” by Naomi Klein many years ago has been the working and living conditions of garment workers. All these years, those working conditions have only improved slowly despite all the information appearing in newspapers more and more. It makes me terribly sad and furious. How can people still silently accept, ignore or simply shut their eyes to all these horrible and unbearable facts? Coming across all the articles about mass fainting at Cambodian garment factories last year, I have decided to portray and interview garment workers to raise more awareness for the working conditions in garment factories and the lives they are living. My hope is to get consumers involved and to make them think about their buying habits as well as the connection between the pain of some and the wealth of others. More reflection in the world is needed, more transparency, more understanding as well as critical perspective in order to recognise social injustice and exploitation and to eventually create a change in the world.


 

The Visual Concept

To do research, I was working closely with two unions in Phnom Penh. One of them was C.CAWDU. I joined several strikes with Athit Kong to document the events and visited a lot of garment workers at their homes. They allowed me to have a look at their living conditions and shared with me about their working conditions. I finally decided on the visual concept of the photo spread. No distraction should allow the viewer of these portraits to drift away with their thoughts, with their involvement, with their sense of guilt. As the working conditions in the garment industry are rather kept in the dark – or at least tried to be kept in the dark –, I decided to bring some stories of garment workers to light. For several Sundays, I was building a small photo studio in one room shared by 4 garment workers and photographed 35 garment workers – all wearing a black t-shirt – against a black background. The worker’s faces were ‘drawn’ in the darkness through light that came from one side. With only a small window providing the room with barely enough fresh air, I could experience how it feels to spend a whole day in an extremely confined and heated space and can finally imagine more precisely how a garment workers’ life outside the factory must be. It was crucial for me to portray these workers with immense respect and dignity as I have the deepest respect for them. The life they face day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, is one of the toughest. And yet, they all shared a smile with me. The photo spread is not only documenting the inhumane exploitation of garment workers by international brands but at the same time shows a generation of Cambodian workers that the world should pay tribute to. There is no more time to shut one’s eyes and banish from one’s mind.


 

The Portraits

 

Nop Saveit

Miss Nop Saveit is 29 years old and has been working in the garment industry for ten years. Working extensive overtime on a daily basis has always been part of her job since she was 19 as well as a six-day week with only one day off. Nop Saveit is currently a seamstress at „Neworient Company” in Phnom Penh. All these years working as a seamstress have had a bearing to Nop Saveit’s health. She is constantly tired and weak and suffers from heavy headaches. On Sundays, when she is not working, she usually travels back to her hometown to see and support her family. She dreams of being married and working as a saleswoman in a small dress shop.

 

 

 

Long Pisey

Long Pisey, age 35, started to work as a seamstress when she was 23 years. All these 12 years as a garment worker, she has been struggling to survive with the little money she earns. The excessive heat level in the factory where she is sewing is unbearable for her but she has no choice but to even work overtime. She hopes that one day she will be able to have her own sewing shop. On her day off, she just stays at home, being exhausted. She tries to get some sleep which is sometimes difficult as she shares the room with three other people. One of them is always sick which makes it impossible for the other women in the room to get rest. They have to look after each other and support each other like a family as relatives often live far away.

 

 

Nop Nimol

At the age of 16, Nop Nimol, today 24 years old, moved to Phnom Penh to work as a seamstress. She is currently working in building no. 3. Instead of being forced to meet the almost impossible quota every day and working overtime in a cruelly hot and noisy factory, she would prefer to decorate clothes. On her day off, there is no energy left but to rest lying on the bare floor. She hopes that one day she would be able to buy a small house and have one or two children and a husband. But she is afraid this will just remain a dream.

 

 

 

 

Sean Raksmey

Sean Raksmey is 22 years old with already seven years of work experience as a seamstress. She is working at the „Neworient Company” in Phnom Penh but would rather be a saleswoman selling beautiful dresses. She hopes that the brands will increase the minimum wage as it is really hard for her to cover all her expenses and still send some money home to her family. The only food that she can afford is the one in the street near the factories which is not the healthiest food. On Sundays, when she is not working, she stays at home to rest and do house work.

 

 

 

Roeun Senghak

Miss Roeun Senghak, 22 years old, has been working as a seamstress at the „Neworient Company” in Phnom Penh for three years. She is suffering from strong headache due to the heat and no fresh air while working six days a week. Her living conditions aren’t any better either as she shares a small room without any window with four other women. Yet, on her day off, she stays in her room as she is too exhausted from work. She wants to make as much money as possible as long as she is still young to send it back to her family in need.

 

 

 

 

Pov Sophar

Miss Pov Sophar, 25 years old, started to work as a seamstress when she was 19 years old. Ever since she has moved to Phnom Penh to work she misses her family. She would prefer to live close to her hometown and decorate clothes instead of sewing up to 12 hours a day in a hot factory six days a week. Sometimes the women and girls in her factory are not even allowed to take a bathroom break spending the whole shift on their feet. She hopes that one day she will meet her future husband to save her from the job as a seamstress but she is wondering where she will ever meet him. On her day off she is just staying in her room.

 

 

 

Om Sarorn

At the age of 14, Om Sarorn, today 22 years old, had to start to earn money to support her family. It is eight years now that she has been sewing six to seven days a week at „Marachun”. Every morning she travels 1,5 hours on a truck to Phnom Penh and another 1,5 hours back after a long and exhausting day in the factory. She is always tired and feels weak but still has to help her familiy on the farm on her day off. She hopes that the clothing companies will increase the minimum wage so that she is no longer forced to work extensive overtime to have enough money for her family and herself. If she had a choice she would rather be a saleswoman than a seamstress.

 

 

 

Kay Chantha

Miss Kay Chantha is 24 years old. She has been sewing at the „Neworient Company” with five years of work experience. Together with five other women, she shares a small room with lack of privacy for each one of them. On her day off, she likes to read a book to banish all sad thoughts about her working and living conditions and dreams of having a family and a farm one day. She loves to work outside with fresh air and not inside a hot and noisy factory with no air conditioning system.

 

 

 

 

 

Ren Eim

Miss Ren Eim is already 42 years old. For 12 years she has been working as a seamstress and is currently employed by the „Neworient Company”. All these years working in the garment industry have had consequences for Ren Eim’s health. She is suffering from headache and heavy coughing ever since she has started to work as a seamstress. As Ren Eim is already older, she is afraid of getting sick and having no health insurance to cover her needs which is the reason why she is working as much overtime as her health allows it. On her day off, she tries to recover from work as much as possible just staying in her room, which she shares with two other women.

 

 

 

On Phoun

On Phoun, 38 years old, is a seamstress at the „Neworient Company”. For ten years she has been sewing, often working overtime seven days a week. Even though she has learned to live a very basic life, saving money at the end of the month is almost impossible. The more she works, the easier she gets sick and in need of medication, which causes a vicious cycle of debt, poverty and bad health. As most of her colleagues she just takes a rest staying in her room when she is not working. She is sometimes even too exhausted to cook.

 

 

 

 

Nget Sokvann

Nget Sokvann is 28 years old and has been working as a seamstress at the „Neworient Company” for seven years. Earning a wage of 65 USD makes it almost impossible for her to survive and still contribute an income to her family. She needs to support the education of her younger sister and pay for the treatment of her mother being ill. Feeling dizzy and having a headache while working is something she is used to. She tries not to question her life but just keeps going. Her dream is to just stay at home with her family to take care of them and work on the farm.

 

 

 

Mourng Chanthorn

Miss Mourng Chanthorn is 27 years old with six years of working experience as a seamstress. She hasn’t given up her dream to have a small shop one day sewing dresses for weddings. She would love to start a business with her sister who is ironing at a garment factory and suffering a lot. She starts to work at 7am working extensive overtime and having no break between 12pm and 9pm. Mourng Chanthorn is worried how much longer her sister will be able to manage this job and life. She hopes that the minimum wage will be increased soon.

 

 

 

Gnel Kimly

Miss Gnel Kimly, 29 years old, feels the devastating effect that 11 years of working as a seamstress have on her health. The poor quality of food she is able to afford due to the little money she earns causes regular stomach aches and problems with her intestines. Enduring the pain is sometimes hard but she has no money left to see a doctor. She is worried about all the young girls starting to work in the garment industry at the age of 14 years or even younger. On her day off, she stays in her small room that she shares with another five seamstress.

 

 

 

 

Bo Channa

Miss Bo Channa, 20 years old, got her first job in the garment industry when she was 18 years old. After only 2 years of working as a seamstress in building no. 3, she is already constantly tired suffering from headache and nausea. On Sundays when she is not working she is just sleeping all day long. She feels no energy left to take any action, meeting friends or family. All these hours in an extremely hot factory, with only little water and strict supervisors controlling every move stresses her to the highest extent. Sometimes she just wants to be on her own but as she is sharing the room with five other women, this is never possible. But hopefully one day, when she is married and living in a nice house, she will find that peace she is longing for every day.

 

 

Sem Chantoeun

Seven years of sewing have had an unhealthy impact on Sem Chantoeun’s life. At the age of only 26 years she has been constantly suffering from respiratory problems. The temperature in the factory is far from acceptable and the air is full of chemicals. Being exposed to such surroundings between six to seven days a week, sometimes 12 hours a day is unbearable for Sem Chantoeun. She would love to live a different life with healthy working conditions and a decent wage. She hopes that one day she can have her own little shop with an air conditioning system, no more health problems and with time and energy to meet friends.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Interview: Tola Moeun, head of the Labour Programs at the Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC)

Tola Moeun is Cambodia’s public enemy number one – at least in the eyes of many garment manufacturers and politicians. For years now, this legal expert has been supporting workers’ organizations in defending their right to a living wage and decent working conditions. His weapons: the law and the media.

By Clean Clothes Campaign

 

Q: What does CLEC do to support garment workers in Cambodia?
A: We provide technical and legal support on issues related to labor law and trade union law. We mostly work with local union leaders, NGOs and students, but our trainings are open to all, including human resources managers and civil servants.
We also devote a large part of our work to public awareness on labor issues. For instance, we have set up a weekly radio program focusing on workers problems in garment factories: overtime, maternity leave, contracts, bonuses, union busting, etc. Every Wednesday, workers can call us to express their grievances and ask questions. We compile their questions and our legal experts provide a legal answer on the following week. Every month, we summarize the main issues raised by workers and call officials, MPs or employers to get their reaction live on the radio. Of course, many of them don’t like that. This program is now available in 11 provinces and potentially reaches 4 to 5 million people. It is crucial to reach marginalized workers and analyze the trends in labor law violations.


Q: You are also very active in publishing analyses and providing opinions in newspapers…
A: We are legal experts. Our role is to look at the labor law and its implementation in Cambodia. Based on our research and on workers’ grievances, we submit op-eds and articles to newspapers to inform policy-makers on various problems and solutions. Is the labor law clear enough on short-term contracts? Are there contradictions between the law and the ILO guidelines? What is the legal responsibility of authorities regarding union busting practices? In our publications and media activities, we never express our personal opinion. We only focus on a legal perspective. That’s probably why we are considered “troublemakers” in some influential circles…


Q: What are the main issues raised by workers?
A: The most common problem is probably the right to sick leave. Workers have to provide a certificate to be on sick leave. But given their wage, going to the doctor is too expensive. That’s why they go to work even when they’re seriously sick and cannot enjoy one of the most basic labor rights. Maternity leave is also an important issue. Most garment workers have short-term contracts and employers tend to renew these contracts over and over. Why? Because it denies workers their right to maternity leave as well as their seniority bonus. We also have many cases of workers who have been dismissed for being pregnant, or enjoying their right to rest but without receiving their legal allowance. These are typical cases where CLEC can provide legal support.


Q: What about overtime issues?
A: Excessive overtime is the cause of many health problems. But it’s above all the symptom of the low wages in Cambodia. It is not possible to survive without overtime in the garment sector. With your minimum wage, the health allowance and the attendance bonus, you get 73 dollars. Since you often have to pay 30 dollars for a simple room, you have no choice but to eat for one dollar a day. I’s as simple as that. But you need to send money to your family and cover your daily expenses. That’s why the majority of workers work more than 10 hours a day. Some even work seven days a week. They don’t have a choice. But even if they had the choice, they couldn’t refuse overtime because of their precarious contracts and the fear of losing their job.


Q: This is a human problems, but also a legal problem…
A: Absolutely. The Cambodian labor law is crystal clear on the issue of wages. Articles 104 and 107 specify that the minimum wage must guarantee decent living and human dignity. Specifically, the minimum wage paid for a 48-hours week must cover the worker’s basic needs – as well as those of his/her dependents – and be regularly revised to match with the inflation. But these two conditions are not met today. This is the responsibility of the state. Legally, the government has the obligation to guarantee a decent living for garment workers. This failure from the state is an opportunity for brands and manufacturers to get rid of their corporate social responsibility in Cambodia. This public failure is also the source of thousands of human problems. Women work too much, they eat less, they sleep less, they don’t go to the doctor… They are extremely vulnerable. That is why thousands of them fainted in 2010 and 2011. And the trend will go on this year.


Q: The Cambodian state is thus the first responsible for this situation?
A: Yes, because he is the one defining wages and violating its own legislation. On the paper, the Cambodian law and the legal system are excellent. We have a 3-level court system – first court, appeal and Supreme Court – and an Arbitration Council dealing with labor disputes. But the judicial system is not independent and decisions of the Arbitration Council are not always binding. That’s why workers try to avoid the judicial system and rely on strikes and on international campaigns.
We desperately need to have an independent labor court whose decisions are binding. CLEC has studied the models and functioning of such courts in other Asian countries. We will submit our recommendations to the government and to the unions pretty soon. But if the future Cambodian labor court is also a politically oriented body, then we’d better rely on the Arbitration Council…


Q: What is the responsibility of brands regarding wages?
A: They also bear a huge responsibility. Of course, brands are not NGOs and business is not philanthropy. But they have to respect their national laws and their codes of conduct. These codes underline the necessity to respect human rights, including the right to a decent work. Brands make a lot of fuss about their CSR. But if they want to be credible – especially with their clients – they need to be more responsive to the challenges faced by garment workers.
The faintings that occur regularly in Cambodia are already signs that brands’ commitment to decent work is not put into practice. A few months ago, Puma’s supplier Huey Chen was faced with massive faintings in Cambodia. I went there to estimate the number of victims. I interviewed workers and local shop owners, and they told me that at least 300 workers had fainted. I reported this to the media, but Puma immediately replied that “only” 131 workers had fainted. “Only”? This kind of reply is symptomatic, even if Puma eventually came up with a ‘correction plan’.


Q: But what is the interest for brands to push for better wages in the supply chain?
A: As businesses, brands should respect basic economic principles, like the link between productivity and wages. Studies in Cambodia have shown that workers employed for a couple of years constantly increase their added value and productivity: they gain skills, sew faster, are more precise... But at the same time, wages are getting lower and contracts are getting shorter. Economically speaking, that does not make sense. Brands must assume higher wages if they want to keep skilled people working for them. Better wages means higher productivity, better quality, better reputation and a justified price increase for the consumer. Moreover, Cambodia is already experiencing a shortage of workers willing to join garment factories because of the poor working conditions. Even faced with an important unemployment, Cambodian workers now prefer to join booming sectors like services and tourism. Brands and manufacturers should be worried about this.


Q: Business awareness will take time. Until then, striking seems to be the only way for workers to get better wages. Do you agree?
A: You are right. Given the failure of the legal system to protect workers and the absence of a wage adjustment mechanism, strikes have been the key weapon to increase salaries in the sector. But this path is not sustainable for the future. Strikes are extremely costly for the workers and for the employers. It hinders the industrial relations. Moreover, there is a growing criminalization of human rights activists in Cambodia, and union leaders can easily face judicial charges of ‘incitement’. That is a real problem today.
That’s why we need to work on all levels of society, from top to down. We have to promote the rule of law and the enforcement of good governance policies. And we need workers to constantly defend their rights with solid, legal arguments.


Q: Specifica, how do you help workers in dealing with these legal aspects?
A: We organize small meetings with local union leaders and provide them with adapted training sessions on labor law, civil law and criminal procedures. We also train them to prepare cases to be presented before the Arbitration Council. Even if its decisions are not binding, they are an important tool since brands, national and international stakeholders regularly affirm their support to the AC and its decisions.
The workers we train meet each other every 3 months to talk about their experiences. During these meetings, we also make an update on legislation and developments in the garment sector. To encourage them to actively use their knowledge, we have set up a symbolic incentives system. If they manage to bring a case to their employer and to reach an agreement, we give them one dollar. If they manage to bring the case to conciliation at the ministry level, they get 2 dollars. And if they push their case to the Arbitration Council, we give them 3 dollars. This system works very well – unfortunately for our budget [laugh].
These trainings really empower workers. I can see this day after day. They feel extremely proud to speak out, to accompany their colleagues to the court, to participate in meetings with the employers. There’s a new generation of activists emerging today. They are extremely motivated to learn and practice labor law. That is very encouraging, even if the road ahead is long and perilous.

 

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Interview: Phork Hoeurng, coordinator of the Workers’ Information Center

The Workers’ Information Center (WIC) is a Cambodian grassroots organization working with female garment workers to improve their leadership and living conditions. WIC’s coordinator describes for us the main challenges faced by its members – and the successes so far.

By Clean Clothes Campaign


Q: There are many unions and NGOs working with garment workers in Cambodia. Why set up an organization dealing specifically with women?
A: Women represent 90% of garment workers in Cambodia, but the vast majority of union leaders are men, especially at the federation level. Female workers generally have limited education – most of them only finished primary school and can barely write and read. They therefore think that they can’t speak out to their managers and to their union leader. This is a problem of equity, but also a problem of efficiency since women face specific problems related to their sex.


Q: What kind of problems?
A: Their safety, for instance. Many of them work overtime, until 9 or 10 pm. They have to go back home at night and are often victims of harassment from gangsters. Once they’re home, they still face danger because most of the rental houses don’t have indoor toilets and bathrooms. These are problems that men don’t have to face day after day.
Another specific problem is related to their health conditions. Because of the wages in the sector, most women cannot take care of their health. They work overtime, even in the weekend, and have no time to relax. To get money, they put their health in danger, even when they are pregnant. Hygiene conditions at home and in the factories also have an impact on maternity and pregnancy issues. And these are specific problems that requires women to take leadership.


Q: What does WIC do to act on these issues?
A: We get in touch with local authorities and with the police to improve lighting, security and rapid responses. We inform landlords on safety, hygiene and construction standards. We collaborate with unions to put this issue on the agenda. We even met local gangs!
Health and working condition problems are of course related to the insufficient wages in the sector, and is therefore a priority in our work. But we also provide basic health counseling and natural medicines.


Q: How do you deal with the wage problem?
A: Many workers are exploited because they’re not organized. That’s why we encourage them to create or join unions. We explain what the labor law is, what they can do when they have a problem, how they can organize. We facilitate sessions in the evening, in workers dormitories, and in WIC’s six safe houses located in and around Phnom Penh.
We also organize English classes for women. It’s part of the wage solution because they need to speak English to deal with some factory managers. And English allows them to consider new job opportunities, like working in supermarkets or in foreign organizations. You cannot stay in the garment sector for 15 years. That’s too exhausting. Thanks to these classes, some of them even went back to school. That is very encouraging


Q: What are WIC’s successes so far?
A: Every time we see one of our members becoming a union leader, it’s a victory. There aren’t many to date, but the movement is on. And we also had successes on major collective actions, like the PDC garment closure in 2008 [a supplier for Gap, Target and Abercrombie & Fitch, ed. note]. The factory closed down unannounced and dismissed more than 500 workers without paying severance compensations. Workers were left jobless, with no money. WIC encouraged them to fight. We gave them legal counseling, got in touch with the Clean Clothes Campaign and after months of battle, 230 workers eventually got compensation. The others had abandoned the fight and found another job to survive.


Q: What is the added-value of collaborating with organizations like CCC?
A: International campaigns are extremely important because they have access to stakeholders at high level. We can’t. They can use the case studies that we compile here. And their communication towards consumers is also really effective. Consumers are informed and have a huge power, especially in Western countries. Of course, they still buy clothes from Gap, H&M or Levi’s – and that’s not wrong in my opinion – but they now express their willingness to see big brands improving working conditions in factories. Via the internet, they can participate in global campaigns towards big brands. And brands care about this because they cannot live without their customers.


Q: However, progress remains slow…
A: You are right, progress is really slow. Wages are still way too low. They do not match with the cost of living and the constant inflation. Take gasoline. Not so long ago, you only had to pay 1,000 riels for a liter. Today, it’s more than 4,000. Brands, factories and politicians should take this into account and adjust wages accordingly. Buyers remain the first responsible for this situation. Despite the international campaigns, they continue to put pressure on factories to keep wages as low as possible. Those who care about their image are sometimes cheated by the suppliers, who only show brands representatives a tiny part of the picture. And politicians don’t care or don’t really know what’s happening.
That’s why we have to work on every level. We have to push workers to join unions and fight for their rights. Unions must defend decent work and wages in factories. Consumers must speak out to the brands… Everything is linked. Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet to improve wages and working conditions in Cambodia!

 

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Interview: Bent Gehrt, WRC Field Coordinator for Southeast Asia

Bent Gehrt is the Southeast Asian field director for the Workers’ Rights Consortium, an NGO that monitors factories producing apparel for 180 American, Canadian and British colleges and universities. He explains why Cambodia remains the regional ‘bad boy’ on wages and what challenges need to be urgently addressed.

By Clean Clothes Campaign


Q: You monitor garment factories in South East Asia for more than six years now. What is, in your view, the main problem in Cambodian garment sector today?
A: Wage is definitely the first issue for Cambodian workers. Some people think that wages are okay since the cost of living is ‘cheap’ in Cambodia. But that is a mistake. It’s actually cheaper to live in Thailand and Vietnam, where the wages are higher. In Cambodia, authorities have failed to catch up with inflation over the last 10 years. Since 2000, the gap between the minimum wage and the inflation rate has been growing dramatically. The minimum wage has been increased, but the actual wage decreased by more than 14%. The consequence is immense. Today, you cannot feed yourself anymore with the wages in the garment sector. I challenge you to get a breakfast, a lunch and a supper with a budget of one or two dollars. You will not succeed. It’s therefore easy to understand why 2,400 workers fainted between June 2010 and January 2012…


Q: You just said that garment wages are higher in neighboring countries. Is Cambodia an exception regarding wages?
A: There is a strange thing about Cambodia. Seven years ago, Vietnam used to have a lower wage than Cambodia. But now, Vietnamese wages are almost twice as high as in Cambodia. And Vietnamese factories provide free lunch for their workers. In Ho Chi Minh City, workers get 95 Dollars as minimum wage, a 13th month (an extra month wage) and a daily free lunch. In Cambodia, workers get 61 Dollars, a 5 Dollars health allowance and have to pay for their food. If the Cambodian industry was competitive seven years ago with same wages as Vietnam, why couldn’t it be competitive with the same wage today? That doesn’t make sense. The wage increase in Vietnam has nothing to do with a sudden booming in workers’ productivity, and Vietnamese textile and garment sector attained an export turnover of over 14 billion USD in 2011. I don’t see why wages in Cambodia couldn’t be raised as well.
The same story happened in other countries as well. Laos recently increased wages by 80%. The minimum wage is now 78 dollars – higher than in Cambodia. Thailand is planning to increase wages by 40% in the near future. The trend takes place everywhere around Cambodia, especially since China increased wages in its own garment sector. Why don’t Cambodian authorities follow this path? I don’t know. But there is a clear lack of political will. And I don’t see any chance of change in their approach. Unless something really dramatic occurs…


Q: Apart from wages, do you notice new challenging trends in Cambodian garment sector?
A: The most worrying trend is the massive increase in short-term contracts. The use of fixed-duration contracts (FDCs) perfectly illustrates the “boiling frog story”: if you throw a frog into boiling water, it will jump out immediately. But if you increase the heat of the water slowly, it will get accustomed and eventually get cooked to death. That’s what’s happening now in Cambodia.
When the trend started in 2005, employers used a very smart strategy. They stressed the fact workers could get 5% severance when their contract was terminated. Five percent, that makes only 3 dollars, but that means a lot when you have to eat for one dollar per day. Factory owners also maintained bonuses like seniority and maternity leave. Many unions didn’t notice the real danger behind these short-term contracts. But now that most factories have converted the unlimited duration contracts (UDCs) into short-term contracts, employers are in a favorable position and tend to cut all these benefits. Today, these precarious contracts are the main source of labor rights violations: termination of contracts for pregnant workers or union leaders, de facto forced overtime, etc. The ultimate aim of FDCs is to control the workers, to dismiss them without any valid reason – a condition required with UDCs – and to get rid of ‘disturbing’ elements. FDCs are extremely dangerous for unions. The water is boiling now. And even if these practices are totally illegal, factories are not alarmed because they can act in total impunity. But I predict a rise in strikes against this phenomenon.


Q: How did this massive shift happen so quickly?
A: By using persuasion, blackmail and cheating practices. The persuasive approach was based on stressing the maintenance of severance and bonuses. But financial blackmail was also widely used, especially before the two major holidays: Cambodian New Year and Pchum Ben – the ‘ancestor’s day’. These events are extremely important in the country. Workers need money to go back to their villages. This is the perfect timing to blackmail them. Sun Tex and Bright Sky factories are two striking examples. In 2008 and 2009, they converted their entire workforce into short-term contracts just by saying “we will give you extra money for the holidays, but you have to sign a 6-months contract”. Of course, many workers agreed. Some union leaders denounced the trick and were immediately dismissed. And no buyer took action.
PCCS Group, the owner of several factories in Cambodia, used another strategy. The company moved its production from one factory to another to make it look like a decrease in orders. They started early retirement programs, gave severance pay and closed one of their units. But as soon as all workers were dismissed, they reopened the factory with a brand new name, and hired all workers on 3-months contracts with minimum wage. The only thing that didn’t change was the buyers: Gap and Adidas. And I can’t believe that these brands were unaware of this trick. There must have been communication about this strategy.


Q: Who is primarily responsible for this situation?
A: It’s a difficult question. The responsibility is clearly shared by brands, Cambodian officials and manufacturers. The Cambodian Arbitration Council (AC) has stated that the continuous renewal of FDCs is illegal: after two years, you must get a UDC. Brands, officials and employers say that they all support the Arbitration Council’s decisions, but no one wants to implement that specific one on FDCs. If you claim that you support the AC, you cannot pick and choose which decisions you respect and which ones you reject. Brands have failed to respect their pledge to support the AC. Manufacturers pretend that there is a legal uncertainty. And government officials propose amendments to the labor law… aimed at legalizing the illegal practices of companies.


Q: The situation seems desperate on this issue…
A: Since no one is willing to take serious steps in the right direction, there are very few successes so far. The only positive example I know occurred in 2006, when Adidas asked one of its suppliers to give UDCs to the workers. Since then, I haven’t seen any success at all. And as far as I know, only two factories in Cambodia exclusively work with UDCs: E Garment and SL Garment. But they also have huge issues with freedom of association. In some other factories where unions are strong, the majority of workers also have UDCs. But that’s all. In general, larger companies provide 6 months or one year contracts – it would be crazy for them to manage to renew 5,000 contracts every 3 months. But smaller factories often use shorter contracts: 3 months, 2 months or even 25-days contracts. The rule is simple. If you ‘behave well’, you can get a longer contract. Otherwise, you’re out.


Q: You are a monitoring expert in the region. What do you think of the monitoring system in Cambodia?
A: As you know, Cambodia has a unique monitoring system in the world managed by the International Labour Organization: the “Better Factories Cambodia” program (BFC). When this system was set up in the country, it really made a difference. The first BFC reports clearly named the factories where labor rights violations occurred. And these were public reports. But in 2005, with the phasing out of the Multi-Fiber Agreement (MFA), the rules changed and a new agreement had to be reached on these reports. The naming of factories was then abandoned. Since then, factories are the only ones who decide who should have access to the comprehensive, detailed reports on violations. Public reports just mention the violations found in the sector, but without saying where it occurred. It’s a shame. The last BFC report mentions cases of child labor in five factories. But which are these factories? That’s a major transparency problem. People should know.
The other problem with this ILO system is that subcontracted units cannot be monitored. They operate in a completely opaque context. How many are they in the country? Two hundreds? Two thousands? Nobody knows, and this is another major weakness of the program.
A third problem is of course that controllers from the Ministry of Labor are dramatically underpaid. They get 50 or 60 Dollars a month, and even their per diems are confiscated by their supervisors. They would be crazy to refuse the bribes offered to close their eyes…


Q: So how does WRC deal with a problem that even the UN cannot address?
A: WRC controllers have the right to monitor the suppliers as far as needed. That is part of the contract we sign with the brands. Most of the time, we have full access to factories. But subcontracting practices are not always easy to identify. So far, it’s been very difficult to identify these factories and it is clearly one of our priorities for the future. One way of finding it is to push brands to disclose the volume of their orders. But they’re not always 100% transparent on that issue. That’s where international pressure can be very useful.


Q: Precisely, what is the added value of international campaigns in improving wages and working conditions in Cambodia?
A: They definitely play a big role. Of course, change cannot come only from overseas. Workers are the main actors of change and our role is not to take over their action. But campaigns play a key role in enhancing the visibility of their actions. Take the September 2010 general strike. The movement came from the workers, but its impact has been greatly amplified through other stakeholders like the Clean Clothes Campaign. Many union members were fired in retaliation of the strike, but the international pressure on brands like H&M or Inditex was decisive to reinstate them. As the saying goes, “no one is free as long as one is not free”. And in Cambodia, the majority of workers are not free. So we can’t just wait for workers to be strong and organized. It’s a question of solidarity.


Q: What is your message to those who feel bad wearing Levi’s jeans?
A: If you want to be 100% ethical, you’ll have to live naked. Everything you can find in general stores was made in a sweatshop. It’s as simple as that. But when you buy clothes, you can decide to reward the companies who are positively engaged with unions and NGOs. Is the brand you want to buy responsive to their appeals and campaigns? Does it correct its practices when there is a problem? These are important steps. That’s why I can say that I will never buy or wear Ralph Lauren shirts. Ralph Lauren never responds to any request from unions or NGOs. At least, Levi’s responds to NGOs’ requests. That’s a positive step. So keep your Levi’s. But don’t think it’s not a sweatshop product, because it is. And don’t think that expensive, luxury brands like Tommy Hilfiger or DKNY promote better working conditions in their supply chains. They don’t. I know a Hugo Boss supplier paying the minimum wage to the workers. Given the price they ask for their product, don’t you think they can afford to pay a little more? 

 

 

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Interview: Ath Thorn, President of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers' Democratic Union (C.CAWDU)

Ath Thorn is the president of C.CAWDU, the largest independent garment union in Cambodia. Leader of a 50,000 member’s movement, he describes the daily problems faced by garment workers in the country.

By Clean Clothes Campaign


Q: Who are the 400,000 garment workers in Cambodia?
A: They’re generally young women from poor rural villages who had no choice but leave their family to get money in and around Phnom Penh. Poverty is such state in the countryside that some parents cannot feed their children or send them to school. That’s why they decide to send one, two or three daughters to the factory to financially support the rest of the family.
Once they find a job in a factory, these girls send as much money as possible to their hometown. That’s the deal. But they also have to pay for the rent, for their food, for their clothes and for all their daily expenses. Since they don’t get enough money, they generally borrow money from neighbors, from friends or moneylenders, with interest rates up to 20% per month. That’s why most of their money ends up in other hands: their relatives, their landlords and their creditors.


Q: So how do they manage to find enough money to survive?
A: They have to cut their expenses on every item possible. They share tiny rooms with 3, 4 or 5 people. They eat as little as it is humanly possible. They don’t go to the doctor when they’re sick… And of course, they make a lot of overtime. All these factors explain why we have these mass faintings everywhere in the country.


Q: How much money do they get in the factories?
A: The minimum wage in the garment sector is 61 USD per month – 56 dollars if you’re on probation period. Given the explosion of mass faintings, the government recently added a monthly 5 dollars health allowance. That makes 66 dollars. All the extra money you can get is conditional. For instance, you can get 7 dollars as ‘attendance bonus’ if you don’t miss a single working day. You also get 1 extra dollar per seniority year. And if you work overtime, you get 0,5 dollar per 2 hours.


Q: Is this an improvement compared to the situation 10 years ago?
A: We fought very hard to get there. In 2000, the minimum wage was only 40 dollars. Between 2000 and 2010, we had to organize four general strikes to get better wages. We had no other option. Every strike led to a 5 dollar increase. These protests also led to better bonuses. The attendance bonus increased from 5 to 7 dollars, overtime allowance doubled, seniority bonus was extended to 11 years – and not 4 years as it was previously... But even with these increases, we’re far, very far from a living wage.


Q: What would be a living wage in the sector?
A: Studies conducted in 2009 by the Cambodian Institute of Development Studies showed that minimum wage should be between 93 and 120 USD. And that was in 2009, when inflation was really low compared to 2012. Today, given the price increases, it is impossible to cover basic needs with less than 100 dollars. And I’m just talking about basic needs: food, rental and transportation. Since it is very hard to get increases in the minimum wage, we have to work on better bonuses and allowances to get as close as possible to 100 dollars.


Q: Why does the minimum wage remain so low in Cambodia?
A: Many factors explain this, but the first problem is definitely corruption. Garment is the first industry in Cambodia, and factory owners are extremely powerful. They have a huge influence on decision-makers and can easily bribe officials or unions to keep minimum wages as low as possible.
A second problem is that many other sectors in Cambodia do not have a legal minimum wage. The answer from the authorities is therefore easy: “how could we possibly increase salaries since civil servants do not even have such a legal minimum wage?”
A third reason is the classic ‘competitiveness argument’. Companies and buyers always argue that they can find cheaper labor costs elsewhere, in Bangladesh for instance. That’s a weighty and scary argument that companies use everywhere to make a maximum of profit while leaving workers with the lowest amount of money possible. But if you analyze the situation, you understand that this pressure on the wages is not in their interest.


Q: How so?
A: Because they now realize that leaving workers with such small wages is counter-productive. Workers get sicker and sicker, faintings happen all the time, and this has a cost for companies. Even China had to increase wages in recent years to deal with these problems. Moreover, many people are now thinking twice before joining the garment industry. Given the wages and the bad working conditions, many of them prefer to work in the tourism or services sectors, or choose to migrate. Only non-qualified, poor workers from the countryside then fill these positions. Qualified workers who stay in the industry tend to move from one company to another to find the best conditions and benefits. The low-cost policy pushes qualified workers to move away.
The situation is such in Cambodia that the garment employer’s federation recently announced that 50,000 vacancies remain unfilled. But who wants to work in factories that pay so low wages or don’t provide rental houses? That’s the case near Phnom Penh airport, for instance, where factories remain empty because they don’t provide any facility.


Q: What about the contracts issue? The number of short-term contracts is booming in recent years…
A: Today, I’d say that 60% of workers have a short term contract in the industry. Of course, if you visit the factories monitored by the International Labor Organization, you will probably find more than 80% of unlimited duration contracts. But everybody knows that these factories subcontract large parts of their production in shadow units, where 100% of the workers get short-term contracts. However, even monitored factories try to push workers to sign short-term contracts. That is one of the major issues that we have to face as a union.


Q: What’s the problem with short term contracts?
A: Short-term contracts are the root of major problems for workers. First, every contract you sign brings you back to a ‘zero-year’ seniority, so that you cannot enjoy your right to annual leave, maternity- and seniority allowance.
But short term contracts also act as Damocles swords on workers. “You refuse to make overtime? You contract will not be renewed”. “You want to join a union? Your contract will not be renewed”. “You get pregnant? Your contract will not be renewed”. And so on. Short-term contracts are a weapon of social destruction in Cambodia. They’re meant to maintain a precarious, servile and non-organized workforce in the factories. And thus keep wages low. The law authorizes factories to hire temporary workers for very specific tasks and specific times. It doesn’t allow them to multiply short term contracts. But that’s what’s happening. And that is totally illegal.


Q: Is the situation better in factories supplying big brands like Gap, Levi’s or H&M?
A: I generally say that working conditions are better in these factories thanks to the ILO mechanism I mentioned earlier. But as I told you, these suppliers also work with a large network of subcontractors that remain totally out of sight. Sometimes, the number of workers subcontracted is three, four or five times higher than in the monitored unit. And this is where the worst violations of labor law happen: forced overtime, union busting, no minimum wage...
Brands perfectly know that. They cannot just say “Oh, these are not the factories I deal with, it is not my responsibility.” It is their responsibility. A child would understand that when you order one million shirts to a 1,000-workers factory, it’s impossible to get them in a week.


Q: What can be done against this phenomenon?
A: It’s hard to find and fight these subcontractors, because they can close from one day to another and reopen elsewhere in the country. It’s a hide-and-seek game. And it is of course very difficult for us to enter these units and establish a union because union leaders are immediately dismissed. But it’s easy to show to the brands that the volume of production they get from “their” supplier cannot be manufactured there. When we find such illegal subcontractors, we denounce them to the authorities, to ILO, to the brands… We also take action during the annual garment buyers’ forum. But progress remain slow.


Q: What have been the successes of C.CAWDU so far?
A: Even if working conditions and wages remain bad in the country, they improved over the years. The union movement is stronger today than 10 years ago, and factories have to take this into account. C.CAWDU has now 48.000 members in 63 factories, and the number of affiliates is growing every year. We managed to impose or to defend unlimited contracts in many factories, and we’ve been at the forefront of the general strikes in the country.
But beyond all this, the main victory for me is to see all these workers interested in labor law, willing to learn about their rights and to defend it. A few years ago, many workers didn’t even know that their working conditions were bad. They considered it as normal. Today, they know what is acceptable and what is not. They can make the difference between an independent and a yellow union. And even if they sometimes still fear to join us, they know we’re here.


Q: C.CAWDU also established strong ties with international partners like the Clean Clothes Campaign. What is the added value of these outside actors?
A: The support of international organizations like CCC is decisive in our fight. Our actions complete each other. Unions make pressure on factory owners here, but CCC has access to consumers and big brands. This double action is key to showing which companies can be praised, and which ones can be put on a black list. Nobody loves to be black-listed.
International campaigns improved their strategies over the years. First-generation campaigns led to boycott or reduction of orders in Cambodia. That was not what workers needed here. But today, through their communication and advocacy, these campaigns push brands to make the right choices, to improve their practices. And that’s what we all want here in Cambodia.

 

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Forholdene for tekstilarbejderne i Cambodja er elendige. De lave lønninger betyder, at arbejderne ofte lider af underernæring. Dette understreges af de mange tilfælde af massebesvimelser på en række fabrikker. Arbejderne er nødt til at leve i usle værelser, som de må dele med andre og er nødsaget til at tage alt for meget overarbejde.

En Løn Man Kan Leve Af, film fra 2012

 
Det cambodjanske 'Living Wage Tribunal' dokumenterede i februar 2012 de mange problemer, som skyldes den lave løn.
 
Siden 2013 har cambodjanske arbejdere kæmpet for at få hævet mindstelønnen til 177 US$. I kampen har de bla brugt de sociale medier med hashtagget #WeNeed177. Arbejdet for den højere løn eskalerede til kampe i januar 2014, da politi og militær slog ned på protesterne og 23 demonstranter blev arresteret, 40 blev såret og 4 mistede livet. 
 
Mindstelønnen er siden i januar 2015 blevet hævet til 128 US$, en del mindre end hvad arbejderne havde krævet og meget mindre end hvad der svarer til en leveløn ifølge  Asia Floor Wage Campaign levelønsberegning på 275 US$.
 

En film af Helle Løvstø Severinsen. Produceret af Clean Clothes Campaign Danmark for "No more Excuses" kampagnen i 2012.
 
 
Læs mere om leveløn i artiklen Living Wages in the Global Garment Industry.
 

There is a vast mismatch between the earnings in the garment industri and the wages paid out to the workers who produce the garments. Whilst the fashion brands generates huge profits from the garments, millions of workers are still subject to wages so low that they simply cannot live on it. 

Af Klaus Melvin Jensen

 

The garment industry is a major employer across the world. 15 million workers in Asia and 4 million workers in Europe produce the overwhelming majority of garments sold worldwide.  Most of the garment production is outsourced from Asia. However, there are still strong garment production countries among EU’s members and acceding countries, such as Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria and the Baltic countries.

European fashion brands like H&M, Zara, adidas, Hugo Boss, and Dolce & Gabbana are making millions in profits every year. This booming industry has come to rely on, and exploit, the cheap labour of garment workers whose wages fall far short of what is necessary to make a decent living. In the particular EU member countries and the acceding countries the wage of app. 2,5 million garment workers is even far below the EU poverty threshold.

In 2012 the EU clothing and textile import amounted to 90 billion Euros.

 

Leveløn i tekstilindustrien
Where does the money go? The wage of the workers is generally as little as 0.5 to 3% of the price that the European consumers pay in the stores. Figure shows the typical pricing of a t-shirt produced in Asia and sold in the EU.

 

The low wages force workers in Asia and their families to live in poor housing without water and sewerage. In Europe workers live without heating. Workers suffer from inadequate nutrition, are forced to work long hours to earn overtime or bonuses and cannot risk taking annual leave or sick leave. At the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in April 2013 fear of losing income was one of the reasons for workers to return to the factory after cracks were discovered in the building.

The outsourcing of garment production outside and within Europe is social dumping on a global scale.

 

A wage garment workers can live from is a human right

A living wage for the worker and her family is established as a human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as well as in these documents: Constitution of the ILO, 1919, Preamble of the Charter Declaration of Philadelphia, International Labour Conference 1944, ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization, 2008 and finally in the European Social Charter.

The Community Charter of Fundamental Social Rights for Workers (EU Social Charter) adopted by the EU in 1989 contains the principle that every job must be paid a fair remuneration. According to the situation in each country workers should therefore be guaranteed a fair remuneration for work. The concept of fair remuneration for work is understood by the EU Social Charter to mean remuneration for work that is sufficient for a decent standard of living for workers. The 1961 "European Social Charter" of the European Council also contains provision in article 4 for "The right to a fair remuneration sufficient for a decent standard of living". Similar provisions concerning "fair remuneration" are also to be found in the national constitutions of many EU member countries.

The Lisbon Treaty, Article 3.5, speak of the European Union’s relations with the world, referring to EU obligations to contribute to: “... the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, free and fair trade, eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights.”

Also the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights define what companies and governments should do to avoid and address possible negative human rights impacts by business. It is part of business’ due diligence to avoid human rights violations in their supply chains. The EU has pledged to encourage and contribute to implementation of the UN Guiding Principles. Many EU Member States are developing national plans on business and human rights.

Finally the EU itself set its goals in these documents: "A Decent Life for All: Ending poverty and giving the world a better future", "A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform economies through Sustainable Development" of the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda: “The first priority must be to create opportunities for good and decent jobs and secure livelihoods, so as to make growth inclusive and ensure that it reduces poverty and inequality.“

 

What is a Living Wage?

A living wage means that the wage a worker earns in a standard working week (never exceeding 48 hours) is enough to provide for them and their family's basic needs - including housing, education, and healthcare as well as some discretionary income for unexpected expenses.

 

Wages and living wages in Asia

Country

Legal minimum wage in local currency *

Legal minimum wage in Euro **

Living Wage in local currency ***

Legal minimum wage as % of living wage

Bangladesh

5,300 taka

50 Euro

25,687 taka

21 %

Cambodia ***’

399,503 riel

73 Euro

1,582,668 riel

25 %

China

1,270 yuan

150 Euro

3,132 yuan

41 %

India ***’

4,370 rupees

53 Euro

16,240 rupees

27 %

Indonesia ***’

1,356,780 rupiah

87 Euro

4,048,226 rupiah

34 %

Malaysia

885 ringgit

197 Euro

1,566 ringgit

57 %

Sri Lanka ***’

8,890 rupees

50 Euro

46,168 rupees

19 %

* In countries where minimum wages vary by region, an average has been taken across each country’s main production regions or
provinces to represent the national minimum wage per month.
** Exchange rate calculated on xe.com 28.03.2014
*** Living Wage figures are calculated by Asia Floor Wage Alliance – a group of Asian trade unions & labour groups who have calculated a living wage formula for Asia. The Asia Floor Wage Alliance carries out regular food basket research in the region to calculate new Asia Floor Wage figures.
***’ Countries where there is a national process to support an Asia Floor Wage setting mechanism.
Wages in Eastern Europe

 

Country

Legal minimum wage in Euro *

60% of average national wage

Estimated minimum living wage **

Legal minimum wage as % of living wage

BiH (Republika Srpska)

189 Euro

260 Euro

1,022 Euro

25 %

Bulgaria

139 Euro

245 Euro

767 Euro

14 %

Croatia

308 Euro

435 Euro

862 Euro

37 %

Georgia

None

196 Euro

518 Euro

10 %

Macedonia

111 Euro

208 Euro

790 Euro

14 %

Moldova

71 Euro

122 Euro

378 Euro

19 %

Romania

133 Euro

218 Euro

710 Euro

19 %

Slovakia

292 Euro

406 Euro

1,360 Euro

21 %

Turkey

252 Euro

401 Euro

890 Euro

28 %

Ukraine

80 Euro

167 Euro

553 Euro

14 %

* Exchange rate in all tables as of 01.02.2014, www.oanda.com; legal minimum wage as of 1st May 2013
** Based on interviews with garment workers in the countries. From Clean Clothes Campaign “Global East” report, to be published on June 10th. 2014.  

 

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Mange skandinaviske tøjfirmaer bidrager direkte eller indirekte til grov underbetaling af arbejderne i lavtlønslande. Firmaerne kræver at de nationale mindstelønsstandarder skal gælde i deres leverandørkæder. Mindstelønnen i mange lande er lavere end FNs fattigdomsgrænse på 2 dollar om dagen.

Af Framtiden i Våre Hender

 

Resumé af rapporten "Syr klær for lommerusk"
- download hele rapporten nederst på denne side

 

Mindsteløn kan man ikke leve af

I flere lande som Bangladesh og Indien udgør mindstelønningerne kun omkring 30% af en leveløn. I Bangladesh f.eks. er mindstelønnen kr. 155 om måneden, mens levelønnen er kr. 448. En undersøgelse af 25 skandinaviske tøjfirmaer viser, at meget få virksomheder har indset, at mindstelønningerne i de fleste produktionslande ikke er høje nok til at arbejderne kan leve et normalt og værdigt liv.

Nogle af firmaerne kræver kun at leverandørerne skal betale en mindsteløn til arbejderne. I en femtedel af verdens lande er mindstelønnen under fattigdomsgrænsen på 2 dollars om dagen. Det viser den nye rapport ”Syr klær for lommerusk” fra Clean Clothes Campaign i Norge.
Den største del af tøjproduktionen i dag finder sted i lande, hvor det sociale sikkerhedsnet er svagt eller ikke eksisterende. Fattige mennesker lever et usikkert liv; hvis familieforsørgeren bliver syg, kan det forværre hele familien situation uopretteligt. I tekstilindustrien udgør lønomkostningerne i produktionen mellem 0.5 – 3% af de totale omkostninger. Alligevel presses priserne for varerne ned og arbejdernes løn bliver derefter.

Denne rapport belyser hvorfor det er nødvendigt at hæve arbejdernes lønninger og hvordan det kan lade sig gøre. Tøjfirmaerne kan ikke blive ved med at undergrave tekstilarbejdernes vigtigste vej til et værdigt liv, retten til at organisere sig i fagforeninger og retten til en løn, man kan leve af: en leveløn.

 

Tøjfirmaer skal stille krav til leverandørerne om leveløn til tekstilarbejderne

Den svenske tøjgigant Hennes & Mauritz, norske Voice AS og danske Bestseller stiller kun krav om mindsteløn i deres code of conducts og er tre af de virksomheder, der får den dårligste vurdering i undersøgelsen. De svenske firmaer KappAhl, Gina Tricot og Lindex har heller ikke tydelige lønkrav i forhold til leverandørerne, de nøjes med at ”opfordre” underleverandørerne til at betale højere lønninger.
To firmaer fremhæves i rapporten. Det norske Stormberg, der sælger fritidstøj og det svenske firma Dem collective har både angivet leveløn som et krav i deres code of conduct´s og desuden implementeret kravet hos deres leverandører.

Det viser at det gennem engagement, åben dialog og tæt opfølgning er muligt at forhøje lønningerne i leverandørkæden, så lønnen kan dække basale behov og arbejderne og deres familier kan leve et værdigt liv.

I rapporten anbefales tøjfirmaerne bl.a. at stille krav om leveløn i deres Code of conduct og at samarbejde med andre virksomheder og fagforeninger om implementering. Desuden bør de ændre deres indkøbsstrategier.

 

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Rapport
Syr klær for lommerusk, Framtiden i Våre Hender 2009, (PDF 26 sider)

 

 

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FIRSTMOVER

Bæredygtighed handler både om de sociale forhold, der hvor tøjet bliver produceret, om brugen af tøjet og om miljøet.

Flere og flere brands tager deres ansvar alvorligt og indarbejder overvejelser om bæredygtighed i deres virksomhed. Nogle gør bæredygtighed til en grundsten i deres forretningsmodel og andre indarbejder bæredygtige metoder i forskellige dele af deres værdikæde.

En måde at ændre ved industrien som den er nu er at være transparent. The DIG Project er en opfordring til at designere og studerende deler deres viden og tager del i den positive udvikling i den måde, vi designer og producerer på.

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