Podcast Fact File
Behind some of the stats
According to the Clean Clothes Campaign, in Asia alone the garment industry employs more than 15 million people, and 80% of these workers are women. Textile and apparel production accounts for over 16% of Cambodia’s total GDP with employment of nearly 45% of nation’s manufacturing labour force, while textile and apparel exports comprise 85% of Cambodia’s total exports, according to the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC). India exports over $17 billion in garments annually and is growing faster than the Chinese market, says Clothing Manufacturers’ Association of India. Bangladesh is the second largest readymade garment exporter in the world, exporting more than $20 billion worth of clothes last year – the country’s largest source for export earnings, according to Bizvibe.
Experts estimate that over half of the world’s garment workers aren’t paid the legal minimum wage (Merk 2009, Berenschot International 2012. According to a study from the Center for American Progress and Worker Rights Consortium, in many Asian nations, where a vast amount of today’s clothing is made, minimum wages for garment workers are less than half of a living wage — meaning workers are unable to afford life’s basic necessities and support their families.
Read more about the findings of the Garment Worker Diaries research
Find out more about Rana Plaza
Read more about the Tazreen factory fire of 2012
What is a living wage?
As defined by the ISEAL Alliance, a living wage allows a worker to cover the essential needs of their family, with a little extra “just in case.” Labour Behind the Label further explains that “a living wage should cover the basic living costs of three consumption units, which translates to one working adult, one child-caring adult and two children, for example, or one working adult and two elderly adults. It is reached within the standard working week, which is not more than 48 hours per week. It is made up of a basic wage before benefits, bonuses and overtime pay.”
What is ethical trade?
The Ethical Trading Initiative explains it’s about having confidence that the products and services we buy have not been made at the expense of workers in global supply chains enjoying their rights. Ethical trade encompasses a breadth of international labour rights such as working hours, health and safety, freedom of association and wages. Ethical trade involves companies taking a series of recognised steps to identify problems and improve working conditions, with a focus on continuous improvement over time. The ethical trade movement began in the 1990s when campaigns and media exposés brought attention to the harsh conditions of workers producing for many multinational companies.
What is audit and compliance?
From the mid 1990s onwards, retailers and brands rushed to commission audits of their suppliers’ workplaces in a bid to prove to consumers and campaigners that their products were ‘ethical’. The third-party audit business is now estimated to be worth around $50 billion annually, with companies typically devoting up to 80% of their ethical sourcing budget on auditing alone, according to the Ethical Trading Initiative.
But there is overwhelming evidence that the predominant approaches to auditing that companies have adopted, which typically involve commissioning third party auditors to carry out inspections, followed by ‘corrective action plans’, are failing to deliver any real change to workers’ lives. Read more about it from the Ethical Trading Initiative.
What does “workers voice” mean?
Trade unions traditionally have been the voice of workers seeking better pay, benefits, and jobs and have been a critical means for working people to improve their working conditions, incomes and social standing. The right to form and join a trade union is enshrined in the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There are also many new tools, technologies and initiatives dedicated to enabling workers to have a stronger voice about their working conditions and pay, such as LaborVoices, Laborlink and other worker SMS and telephone hotlines.
What is freedom of association?
According to the International Labor Organization, freedom of association is the right of workers and employers to form and join organisations of their own choosing. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
What is collective bargaining?
Collective bargaining is a key means through which employers and employees or trade unions can establish fair wages and working conditions, according to the ILO. It also provides the basis for sound labour relations. Typical issues on the bargaining agenda include wages, working time, training, occupational health and safety and equal treatment.
Who is Usha?
Usha is a 32-year-old mother and a nine-year veteran of India’s garment industry. Compared to garment workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and workers within neighboring states in India, Usha is well off. She works an average of eight hours per day, six days per week in a factory on the outskirts of the city of Bangalore. She lives nearby in the village of Bidadi with her two daughters, son, and husband in a well-appointed home. Unlike some workers who only perform one task every day, Usha gets to perform many because her supervisors consider her one of the most experienced workers in the factory. Read more about Usha here.
What happened during Fashion Revolution Week 2017?
Read more about Fashion Revolution Week 2017 to see how the movement is growing, what events took place and the impact of our activities.
What are binding regulations and the EU initiative to clean up supply chains?
After the 2013 Rana Plaza garment factory tragedy in Bangladesh, the European Commission pledged to table a EU-wide flagship initiative to boost responsible management of the garment industry. To date, this initiative has yet to be launched. However, in April 2017, Members of European Parliament adopted a report that suggests a series of measures to improve conditions in garment supply chains include mandatory due diligence and conditional trade preferences. Read more about it here.
What is the business and human rights agenda?
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has a mandate to develop guidance and training relating to the dissemination and implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The goal is to advance the protection of human rights in relation to business activity and assess progress to that end.
What are the UK Modern Slavery Act and California Transparency in Supply Chains Act?
The UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 gives law enforcement the tools to fight modern slavery, ensure perpetrators can receive suitably severe punishments for these appalling crimes and enhance support and protection for victims. Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires certain organisations to develop a slavery and human trafficking statement each year. The slavery and human trafficking statement should set out what steps organisations have taken to ensure modern slavery is not taking place in their business or supply chains.
The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which was signed into law in October 2010 and went into effect in January 2012, requires certain companies to report on their specific actions to eradicate slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains. Aimed at mid-size and large retailers and manufacturing companies with worldwide annual revenues of $100 million or more, the law’s chief goal is to ensure companies provide consumers with information that enables them to understand which ones manage their supply chains responsibly.
What is the Fashion Transparency Index?
The Fashion Transparency Index 2017 reviews and ranks 100 of the biggest global fashion and apparel brands and retailers according to how much information they disclose about their suppliers, supply chain policies and practices, and social and environmental impact.
Meet the expert interviewees
Tamsin Blanchard is Fashion Features Director at Tank magazine and formerly the Fashion Features Director of the Telegraph Magazine. She is now a freelance commissioning editor, journalist and author of several books including Fashion & Graphics (Laurence King) and Green is the New Black (Hodder & Stoughton). She’s also an ardent Fashion Revolutionary!
Guy is Executive Director of Microfinance Opportunities, the organization leading the Garment Worker Diaries. Guy has extensive experience conducting research on the financial capabilities of low-income consumers. Before becoming Executive Director, he was a Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School where he taught courses in management and microfinance for 13 years. At the same time he was a Senior Advisor to MFO and served as Principal Investigator on five Financial Diaries studies and as project leader for the development of the Financial Capabilities Index Web Portal. Guy received his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1994, and he is currently a Fellow at the Ash Center, Harvard University.
Eric Noggle is the lead researcher on the Garment Worker Diaries project. Eric holds a Master in Public Administration degree with a focus on International Development and Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. Eric also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and political science from the University of Nevada, Reno.
Jenny Holdcroft is the Assistant General Secretary at IndustriALL Global Union, leading global campaigns on precarious work, living wages and sustainable industrial policy. She is a member of the steering committee of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and negotiated the Memorandum of Understanding between IndustriALL and global garment brands to create the ACT process to deliver living wages through industry collective agreements linked to brand purchasing practices.
Debbie Coulter is the Head of Programmes at the Ethical Trading Initiative, a prominent and influential alliance of companies, trade unions and NGOS that promote respect for workers’ rights around the globe.
Mark Anner is an Associate Professor of Labor and Employment Relations, and Political Science, and he is the Director of the Center for Global Workers’ Rights. He also directs the School’s Master’s Program in Labor and Global Workers’ Rights, which is a part of the Global Labour University network. He has researched and written on international labor solidarity, labor law reform in Latin America, strikes in Vietnam, and corporate social responsibility in the global apparel industry. Before beginning his academic career, he lived in Latin America for eleven years where he worked with labor unions and a research center. And he has advised the international solidarity section of the Norwegian Trade Union Confederation.
Kalpona Akter started work in the garment industry at age 12 and now is the Executive Director of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity, one of Bangladesh’s most prominent labour rights organisations.
Linda McAvan has been the Labour Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, UK since 1998. Linda is Chair of the International Development Committee (DEVE) one of 22 policy committees in the European Parliament. The EU is world’s biggest overseas aid donors and the Development Committee is responsible for the oversight of both development aid and humanitarian aid.
What are some of the industry organisations and initiatives mentioned in the podcast?
Microfinance Opportunities is a global non-profit committed to understanding the financial realities of low-income households. We work with financial service providers, policy makers, telco’s, card providers, mobile money operators and other private sector organizations to connect product and service offerings to the realities of the unbanked or under-served.
IndustriALL Global Union represents 50 million workers in 140 countries in the mining, energy and manufacturing sectors and is a force in global solidarity taking up the fight for better working conditions and trade union rights around the world.
ETI is a prominent and influential alliance of companies, trade unions and NGOS that promote respect for workers’ rights around the globe and together collectively tackle thorny issues that aren’t able to be addressed by individual companies alone.
The Accord is an independent, legally binding agreement between brands and trade unions designed to work towards a safe and healthy Bangladeshi Ready-Made Garment Industry. The purpose is to enable a working environment in which no worker needs to fear fires, building collapses, or other accidents that could be prevented with reasonable health and safety measures.
The new agreement promises independent, expert building safety inspections for three more years to all covered factories, ensuring that safety improvements achieved under the first Accord will be maintained and that new problems will be identified and addressed. Extending the agreement also guarantees that hundreds of additional factories will be inspected and renovated, as signatory brands add new suppliers.
The International Labor Organization has identified eight fundamental principles and rights at work: freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour; the effective abolition of child labour; and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
The OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains in the Garment and Footwear Sector offers comprehensive and government-backed recommendations to business that address risks they may face in both manufacturing and sourcing materials. The Guidelines calls on buyers to embed social, human rights and environmental considerations into their purchasing practices and collaborate with common buyers to avoid supplier audit fatigue.
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are a set of guidelines for States and companies to prevent, address and remedy human rights abuses committed in business operations.
Where else can you find more information about conditions in the global garment industry?
Where can I listen to the podcast?
On the Garment Worker Diaries webpage
Explore the findings from the Garment Worker Diaries research project in Cambodia, here.