Blog: Leonie BarrieNo quick-fix to workers' unrest

Leonie Barrie | 9 August 2010

Far from quelling months of violent protests over pay and conditions, an 80% rise in the minimum wage for garment workers in Bangladesh has simply led to a fresh wave of violence over claims it still doesn't meet the high cost of living. And as the pay process has proved, there's no quick-fix to the cycle of unrest.

just-style's analysis of the unfolding situation continued last week, with stories consistently among the most-read on the site each day. They have been grouped together here for ease of access.

Textile and apparel producers in Guatemala, meanwhile, are seeking to reassure retailers, importers and suppliers that US concerns over labour rights violations will not disrupt the industry or its eligibility for duty-free benefits under a central American free trade pact.

The response comes after the US requested consultations with the Guatemalan government over apparent labour rights violations under the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA). This is the first time the US has requested consultations under the labour chapter of a US free trade agreement.

Five US textile industry trade associations and the labour union representing textile and apparel workers are also calling on the US government to make changes to the textile portions of the free trade agreement with South Korea. They believe the hurried conclusion of the talks in 2007 led to critical errors that would hurt US textile manufacturers and cause large scale job losses in the United States.

On another front, US retail growth seems to be levelling off after the latest figures show shoppers continued to tread water in July, despite the lure of deep discounts as stores cleared their summer merchandise. Hot weather during the month is also thought to have dampened demand for autumn clothing.

While it's still too early to gauge the trend for the looming back-to-school sales period - the second-largest selling season after the holidays - there are fears that consumers will continue to postpone purchases in the hope of more discounting as term-time nears. And all eyes are closely watching this key indicator of how the rest of the year is likely to shape up.

A better-than-expected set of first quarter results will have pleased the powers that be at Polo Ralph Lauren, but it's what happens next which holds the most interest for the US company after a double-digit revenue hike led to a 57% increase in first-quarter profit. Expansion plans are opening up on several fronts, but with a common theme: the international development of the brand and its spread into new territories and among new consumers.


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