Blog: Leonie BarrieConfusion hangs over Bangladesh's wage talks

Leonie Barrie | 11 November 2013

Confusion and conflict seem to have characterised progress on plans to raise the minimum wage for millions of garment workers in Bangladesh.

According to an announcement by the government appointed wage board last week, pay is set to rise 77% to BDT5,300 (US$68.17) per month.

But labour leaders say that as far as they are concerned, discussions are still on-going, the rise was made without comprehensive consultation - and that they plan to hold out for a hike to a living wage of US$120.

Bangladesh's apparel manufacturers, meanwhile, have threatened to shut down all facilities if the proposed wage rise is not lowered within the next 15 days.

Efforts by Levi Strauss & Co to make its products more socially and environmentally sustainable have been taken to new heights with a smart design initiative said to benefit consumers, apparel workers and the environment. The "ground-breaking" approach is seen for the first time in the Dockers Wellthread capsule collection of khakis, jackets and T-shirts for men.

And for Hong Kong based Crystal Group, one of Asia's largest garment manufacturers, efforts to put sustainability at the heart of its business are seen as key to driving improved productivity and profitability. Progress towards its goals has just been outlined in the company's fourth and latest sustainability report, which takes the theme of 'Total Innovation.

Despite low expectations, US apparel retailers managed to overcome a number of hurdles in October - including the government shutdown and soft economic growth - to post same-store sales gains for the month. But many chains continue to express caution heading into the all-important holiday season.

Teen apparel chains are facing some of the toughest times, and Abercrombie & Fitch is no exception. The retailer is making changes to its assortment, sourcing and inventory planning strategies as part of a raft of new initiatives to try to win back customers after third-quarter comparable sales tumbled 14%. It also said it will shutter its standalone Gilly Hicks stores.

And a question mark continues to hang over Marks & Spencer's clothing performance after the retailer recorded its ninth consecutive quarterly decline in like-for-like general merchandise sales - despite the much-publicised re-launch of its autumn/winter women's wear ranges in September.

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