Fairtrade calls on more fashion brands to set a deadline to start paying living wages

To mark the launch of Fashion Revolution Week, the Fairtrade Foundation is calling on more fashion and apparel brands and retailers to set a deadline by which they will deliver living wages in their supply chain.

On the 5th anniversary of the Rana Plaza garment factory disaster in which 1,138 people died Fairtrade wants the industry to pledge to end poverty wages and ensure a fair deal for the people who make the clothes we wear.

To highlight the issue a new video released shines a light on the dark side of the fashion industry and aims to show how we as consumers can play our part in improving the lives of garment workers. It shows that despite spending £27 billion on clothes in the UK each year, it’s very easy to lose touch with how much our clothes really cost to produce when retailers slash their prices and wow us with bargains, or when big brands charge more for their labels. But what is the real cost of our obsession for cheap fashion, and how can we make sure a fair price is being paid to the people doing the hard work so they can care for their families?

Subindu Garkhel, Fairtrade’s Cotton and Textiles Manager said: “Too many fashion brands and retailers are still just paying lip service for living wages to textile workers. Several have made public statements supporting minimum wage hikes, but none have published any tangible time-bound results showing their efforts to reach these goals, so these commitments are all shirt and no trousers.

“Eighteen months since launching our Textile Standard and our accompanying Programme, we’ve learned that although it’s challenging, it’s possible to deliver transformative change to garment workers by combining a comprehensive on-site support programme for factories in close collaboration with local NGOs and trade unions.”

Fairtrade understands that certification and audits by themselves are not sufficient. Therefore it has developed an extensive textile programme, to complement the Fairtrade textile standard. This includes consulting and training at the factories and workers with the help of local experts, training workshops and trade unions. Fairtrade Textile Programme also offers a dedicated productivity and efficiency training programme for factories. 

Since the standard was first launched, much has been achieved in the areas of workers’ rights awareness, strengthening their representation and capacity building of local trade unions and factory managers. With a mix of basic and advanced trainings, Fairtrade has been successful in holding democratic elections at factories. Fairtrade also held several local workshops in South India and a session on Living Wages according to the Anker methodology last year. In addition, it has also carried out intensive research of the ginning sector.

A recent evaluation underlines the inclusiveness and empowerment of workers, trade unions, worker representatives or compliance committee members’ participation in the audits and having the results shared with them. This sets the Fairtrade textile standard apart from all the initiatives out there. 

“Brands and retailer can meet the demand for ethically sourced clothing by putting responsibility and transparency at the heart of their business, and a few have already begun to do so. We’re calling upon the global fashion industry to turn its commitment to responsible sourcing into effective action by joining our Textile Programme”. 

Suguna Ekambaram is a Fairtrade garment worker and is on the Environmental Committee at her workplace, Armstrong Spinning Mill, representing herself and the people she works with: “If I have a problem I take it to the committee and I resolve my problem. If my colleagues have issues within the company they convey them to me, I take immediate steps to speak to the management to resolve the problem and we work happily. I am very delighted to work for this company.”

The film will be screened around the UK by Fairtrade’s vibrant supporter network, and taken up globally by other Fairtrade organizations, who raise awareness of Fairtrade and the trade justice issues which lie behind the Mark. The UK network of almost ten thousand groups is, made up of Fairtrade Towns, Places of Worship, Schools, Universities and individuals promote Fairtrade in communities and online.



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