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H&M working towards ending exploitation in garment factories by 2018

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2017-02-23 14:00:00 – Stockholm

Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), Swedish fashion retailer in a bid to curb labour exploitation in its main supply factories across the world by 2018 has planned to elect committees and proper pay structures for workers.

Elin Astrom, head of H&M's Sustainability Program in India, said that the clothing firm was aware of the exploitation of workers in the garment industry and was working on several initiatives with its main suppliers to improve worker conditions.

They do face challenges themselves within the industry when it comes to working conditions, excessive overtime, wages etc and they are trying to address this in several ways. Many big fashion brands, including H&M, have been criticized for failing to check conditions of workers in their supply chains -- from poor health and safety standards to long working hours and low pay to not being allowed to form trade unions.

The fashion industry has come under increasing pressure to improve factory conditions and workers' rights.

In May last year, a study by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) found workers stitching clothes for H&M in factories in Delhi and Phnom Penh faced problems such as low wages, fixed-term contracts, forced overtime and loss of job if pregnant.

The AFWA, a coalition of trade unions and labour rights groups, accused the Western high street retailer of failing on its commitments to clean up its supply chain.

Astrom said that the fashion brand sources its apparel from factories across 25 countries and indirectly employs 1.6 million garment workers -- 64 percent of whom are women. It is important to have responsible sourcing when it comes to the millions of jobs that they create throughout the supply chain.

The company has strict expectations of suppliers through a code of conduct, but added that they faced challenges in making factory owners understand issues such as freedom of association and the need for workers' voices to be heard.

Astrom said that the clothing retailer had set goals with its main suppliers to listen to workers, as well as pay scales that ensure adequate wages based on skill and experience. They are also committed that every garment worker should earn enough to make a decent living and they want to ensure this across the industry.

They have a goal with all their strategic suppliers to have democratically elected workers committees by 2018 also do have capacity building programs to enable workers to raise their voices in a meaningful way with management.

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