Low wages, forced and unpaid overtime, and a harmful work environment are among violations likely to be faced by garment workers in Poland and the Czech Republic, according to the latest in a series of investigations by labour rights campaigners.

Dispelling the notion that items 'Made in Europe' are produced in better conditions, factories making clothes for brands such as Calvin Klein, Schießer and Hugo Boss are accused of paying poverty wages to their workers.

The research by the Clean Clothes Campaign says workers just earn the legal minimum wage or less – which is well below a living wage – with some only reaching the legal minimum wage after working overtime hours, which is in violation of labour laws.

While Poland and the Czech Republic compete with the claim that their production is of high quality, in 2015 their net minimum wages were EUR312 (US$341) and EUR390 (426) respectively.

Factories are pressured by buyers and brands on purchasing prices and conditions, primarily with threats of loss of orders, the campaign group noted, adding: "In the overwhelming majority of the factories no unions are active."

Brands and buyers are being urged to raise purchasing prices to enable wage hikes to at least 60% of the national average wage, and governments are being called on to raise legal minimum wages to this threshold.

The industries employ 110,000 registered workers, and between 70 and 90% of production in both countries is exported.

"Even after 20 years working in the factory some women still earn the minimum wage and don't get overtime bonus paid according to the law," claims Lenka Simerska, who conducted the Czech research.

Anna Paluszek, the Polish researcher, says: "Workers are under constant pressure because of the quick turnover brands demand from the factories. They are afraid to speak about working conditions for risk of losing their job." 

Two years ago a similar investigation was carried out into pay and conditions for garment workers in eastern Europe and Turkey:

Eastern Europe a "cheap labour sewing backyard"