Activists and workers are preparing for a week of global protests to demand Swedish fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) pays living wages and ensures fair employment conditions are implemented for its supply chain workers.
The move comes as retailers gear up for the end-of-year festive shopping season. The protests are expected to take place from Delhi to London, from Washington DC to Zagreb, according to Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), drawing attention to H&M’s “broken commitment that 850,000 garment workers would be paid a living wage by this year”.
“H&M’s current business model is squeezing workers at different levels of the supply chain” says Deborah Lucchetti, spokeswoman of Campagna Abiti Puliti (Clean Clothes Campaign Italy). “But seamstresses in garment factories, packers at logistic hubs and employees in retail shops all have the right to living wages and fair employment conditions. Today we join hands with H&M retail trade unionists to bring our joint demands to the heart of Milan.”
The protests form the newest chapter of the ‘Turn Around, H&M!’ campaign. From today, running through to 30 November, a series of street actions will take place, kicking off in London, Madrid and Milan, spreading to at least 30 more cities over the next days, CCC says.
“All activities aim to ensure that H&M cannot hide from scrutiny based on the specific and time-bound commitment that H&M has evidently turned its back on, while making deceptive claims of having exceeded its goals,” adds Neva Nahtigal of Clean Clothes Campaign International office. “Anyone can do that if they also claim the right to move the goal post as they see fit, but we will not let that hypocrisy go unnoticed.”
The alliance says this latest move follows the publication of research findings about the situation in six factories, which were covered by H&M’s 2013 commitment.
“Workers revealed that H&M was nowhere near the payment of a living wage at its supplier factories – to the contrary, many workers reported poverty wages and labour rights violations,” says Bettina Musiolek of Clean Clothes Campaign who coordinated the research. “We have every reason to believe that those findings reflect the broader reality: H&M took a lot of credit for its original commitment but has failed to deliver in the form of an actual living wage materializing in workers’ wallets.”
A spokesperson for H&M said in a statement: “We want all garment workers to earn a Fair Living Wage, which is why we are continuing to work closely with industry stakeholders and partners to agree how to achieve a sustainable change.
“We are pleased that the work we do at factory level within our Fair Living Wage strategy has grown to reach 655 factories employing more than 930,000 workers. In December we will present our next update on our progress towards our Fair Living Wage goals.”