Christmas shoppers stand to be taken by surprise this month as campaigners take action in shopping centers around Europe to raise awareness of poverty wages of Cambodian garment workers. With these 'fashion mobs', they pressure H&M, Inditex (Zara), Levi’s and Gap to introduce a living wage in Cambodia.
Shoppers and brands will be surprised by Christmas street actions and undercover awareness mobs. The fashion mobs take place in at least 10 countries all over Europe, among them Switzerland, Denmark, The Netherlands, Poland and Norway. In addition, the worker's right network spreads their message through a European-wide social media campaign to ask retailers to improve the appalling wage conditions in the Asian country.
“The very low wages are one of the main challenges for garment workers in Cambodia. They see themselves forced to work very long hours, they do not earn sufficiently to buy enough nutritious food and are unable to satisfy the needs of their families. The bottom line is that the workers are paid poverty wages,” says Jeroen Merk of the International Clean Clothes Campaign.
The CCC wants retailers to publicly support the Cambodian trade union's goal of a USD 131/month minimum wage goal as a first step towards a proper living wage, and to produce an action plan to ensure suppliers pay their workers accordingly. At present, the minimum wage for a garment worker in Cambodia is USD 61/month.
“There is an urgent need for a wage hike for the workers producing for European consumers,” says Athit Kong, Vice President of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers' Democratic Union (C.CAWDU). “The retailers have an indisputable role and all big buyers must work together and in true dialogue with independent unions in Cambodia to improve the wages.”
A documentary revealing the poor working conditions faced by Cambodian factory workers producing goods for the fashion retailer H&M was aired on Swedish national television in October. Campaigners and the media have been calling on H&M to respond to allegations of poverty pay in the garment industry, but no concrete steps have so far been taken by the garment major.
“The big buyers, among them H&M should be aware of the unacceptable situation in the factories, yet they refuse to ensure a living wage to the workers. This despite the fact that H&M in 2011 had a profit of almost 2 billion Euros and H&M chairman and main shareholder Stefan Persson is among the 8 richest people in the world,” says Klaus Melvin Jensen of Clean Clothes Campaign Denmark.
“It is crucial that the consumers react by telling the retail companies that their lack of action is unacceptable. This must be the last year Christmas shoppers buy clothes made on poverty wages. After all the workers’ wage is only 1-3% of the total cost of most garments.”
The Clean Clothes Campaign Network collaborates with the Cambodian trade union C.CAWDU on a European-wide campaign called 'No More Excuses', demanding that the H&M and the other retailers/brands take a proactive role in paying a wage that allows its workers to live with dignity.
The campaign aims to draw attention to the fact that whereas the minimum wage for garment workers is USD 61 a month this amounts to less than 25% of a living wage in Cambodia