PROTEST OVER POVERTY PAY FOR H & M WORKERS

News by Charlie Whitehand

A global week of protest took place on Black Friday with activists, consumers and employees demanding that the unmet CSR pledge was delivered. This follows on from our previous news piece ‘H&M Violates Labour Laws’ that was featured in Issue 25.  

Labour Behind the Label have been putting messages in the pockets of H&M clothing. This is a direct call on the brand to follow through on their broken commitment to pay a living wage to 850,000 workers in their supply chain by 2018.  

The London demonstration was just one of many that happened around the world on the 23rd November. Other areas included H&M stores and facilities in Delhi, Milan, Washington DC, Zagreb, Amsterdam and Berlin along with many more.  

Workers’ pay slips revealed that H&M was nowhere near paying a living wage at its supplier factories. In fact, new studies have shown that inflation-adjusted wages have even dropped in some H&M facilities. Workers producing H&M clothing are still receiving a fifth of the amount they need to support their families. Many have also reported poverty and labour rights violations within these facilities.

The global week of action is timed around the 5th anniversary of H&M’s unmet commitment. Neva Nahtigal of Clean Clothes Campaign international office said, “H&M cannot hide from scrutiny over the specific and time-bound commitment that it has evidently turned its back on – whilst making deceptive claims to have exceeded its goal! Anyone can do that if they also move the goal posts as they see fit, but we will not let that hypocrisy go unnoticed.”

Parcel packers at H&M’s European logistics hub Stradella in Italy joined forces in the action in order to express solidarity with workers across H&M’s global supply chain. One worker wrote a letter to other workers in the supply chain to express her distress, “At the huge warehouse where I work (…), the day shift starts at 4.30 a.m. and we do not know at what time we will be allowed to leave. Sometimes it is 4 hours of work, sometimes 12 in a row.” This statement was given anonymously and other workers are too scared to speak up due to XPO, the company that runs H&M’s
logistic hub, recently filing a lawsuit against 147 workers and their union for fighting for their rights.

Deborah Lucchetti, spokeswoman of Campagna Abiti Puliti (Clean Clothes Campaign Italy) said, “seamstresses in garment factories, packers at logistic hubs and employees in retail shops all have the right to living wages and fair employment conditions”. This was further supported by a statement from David Hachfeld Clean Clothes Campaign Coordinator at the Swiss NGO Public Eye: “H&M’s own wage data reveals that H&M is far from securing workers at its supplier factories a living wage.” The week of action marks the newest chapter of the ‘Turn Around, H&M!’ campaign. This is a global alliance of workers and consumers calling for H&M to ensure a living wage without further delay. Its petition has already drawn over 135,000 signatures.

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