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Retailers back campaign for fair overseas wage standard

A string of high-profile retailers including Primark are backing a new initiative to standardise a fair living wage for Asian clothing factory workers.

The launch of the Asian Floor Wage (AFW) campaign, which took place in New Delhi in India on Tuesday and Wednesday, was attended by representatives from Primark, Gap and Monsoon, all of whom expressed support for the scheme. As Drapers went to press, Next and Tesco were also believed to be travelling to the launch. 

The show of support was the latest in a series of efforts by Primark to up its commitment to ethical trading. It appointed a dedicated ethical trading director, Katharine Kirk, in March, following criticism about conditions and pay in factories.

The AFW campaign is co-ordinated by a committee comprising representatives from across Asia and backed by European NGOs including the UK’s Labour Behind the Label (LBL) and Action Aid.

The wage campaigned for by AFW has been set at $475 (£299), which is the average sum needed to support a family across the countries involved. This would represent a big increase on the current minimum wages of all six countries, which are used by many retailers as benchmarks.

For example, compliance with the scheme could represent a sixfold increase in costs for retailers that pay Bangladesh factory workers a minimum wage, whereas in India it would be 1.6 times the wage costs.

LBL campaigns co-ordinator Anna McMullen said: “Many retailers have used the fact there is no defined living wage as an excuse for basing their audits on each country’s minimum wage rather than a fair price.”

Kirk said: “Ensuring workers are paid a living wage is a key priority for Primark but remains one of our toughest challenges, as it does for all brands. Primark is committed to the principle of a living wage.”

A Monsoon spokesperson said: “We are attending the launch to see if there are similarities and synergies with our own Living Wage Project.”

The AFW campaign was launched on the same day as LBL published its latest Let’s Clean Up Fashion report on retailers’ commitments to pay fair wages to overseas workers.

Who is involved?

Retailers supporting the AFW campaign:

Gap, Monsoon, Next, Primark, Tesco

Countries included:

Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand

Readers' comments (1)

  • I'm no expert on this, but products bought from Slovakia with "made in a democratic welfare state" written on the label might sell just as well as slightly cheaper products from China. The selling point is that workers get free hospitals, votes, court systems and the rest. I'd be interested to know if anyone has tested this idea.

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