At our first symposium to call for a living wage we were joined at Pinsent Masons by incredible change-makers and enjoyed discussions from the legal, investment, corporate and NGO sectors as well as academics, and policy makers including Jessica Simor QC, ASOS, Continental Clothing, BMO Global Asset management, ASN Bank, Kempen, ACT Coalition, Fair Wear and Clean Clothes Campaign amongst others.
The inspirational Anannya Bhaattacharjee, founder and President of the Garment and Allied workers union in Northern India opened the session. She encouraged the room to push forward ‘the theme of solutions’ on the urgent issue of a living wage. She also took the opportunity to remind us of the abuse that happens throughout supply chains that is facilitated by the lack of a living wage and the fact that many consumers are unaware of the true cost of garments. The need for increased transparency was a key theme throughout the day and came up again and again across all of our panels.
Jessica Simor QC, launched our second report – Fashion Focus: Towards a Framework for EU Legislation – at the event, using her opening speech to remind us that the industry is an uneven playing field that currently works against brands that want to do better in their supply chains, and to begin the conversation into the structural changes needed to allow retailers, investors and governments to achieve living wages within global supply chains.
Our different panels spoke from positions of experience across many different fields and with a varied wealth of knowledge. Many of our speakers spoke of the key role legislation has, agreeing that regulation is imperative, and discussing different methodologies on how to implement legislation with ‘teeth’.
“The poorer you are the more vulnerable you are and the more vulnerable you are the more exploited you are … so a living wage makes a real difference from the ground up.” Adil Rehman, Ethical Trade Manager, ASOS
Melanie Hall, QC, Ambassador for The Circle, and Livia Firth, Founder of Eco-Age and Ambassador for The Circle closed the day with some incredibly poignant speeches. Livia quoted lecturer and author, Naomi Tyrell, “nothing will ever change unless there is a transnational agreement on wages, otherwise the companies will keep hopping from one country to the other, in pursuit of the cheapest bargain.” This is core to the argument outlined in our report – wages must be improved simultaneously across regions to ensure that brands cannot continue the “race to the bottom” by pitching the low wages of one country against another.
All those involved in this report understand that there will be obstacles and there will be resistance, but are equally convinced that isn’t reason to give up. For the women who work within the garment industry, we must keep pushing for change in this area.
“Everyone has a part to play, everyone in this room today is a consumer.” Melanie Hall QC, Ambassador for The Circle
A huge thank you to all of our speakers and to JJ Charitable Trust and Pinsent Mason for their support in making this symposium happen.
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