We welcome Primark’s announcement that they will “pursue a living wage for workers in their supply chains”, but without fundamental change to legislation the commitment is unlikely to end the indignity and suffering of millions of garment workers, 80% of whom are women.
Jessica Simor QC, primary author of The Circle’s legislative proposal, comments: “If we are serious about protecting human rights and promoting sustainable development, then workers cannot continue to be paid wages that do nothing more than sustain poverty. Remuneration must be sufficient to ensure a basic decent life and allow for the prospect of change. It is great to see brands like Primark waking up to consumer demands for sustainable fashion. But it is not enough when the same brands operate supply chains that consign millions of garment workers to poverty pay. Consumers want fair and sustainable fashion; they don’t want to see garment workers paid minimum wage levels at less than 50% of that necessary to provide for a basic decent life. Without a regulatory change to the market, such as the one contained in The Circle’s ground-breaking proposal, Fashion Focus: A Proposal for New EU Legislation on a Living Wage, it is unlikely that single commitments to pursue a living wage by brands such as Primark will end the scandal of minimum wage levels in the fashion industry.”
Livia Firth, co-founder of The Circle, comments: “We have heard major brands promising to look into, ‘pursue’, or ‘begin journeys’ on living wages many times. In 2014 I challenged H&M to make good on their wage rhetoric in public. It did not happen. The gap between rhetoric and action costs lives and plunges millions of garment workers (predominantly young women) into grinding poverty, creating intensely vulnerable communities often located in areas on the frontline of the climate crisis. The Circle has done the groundwork for fashion brands and Governments by developing a legislative proposal that has the power to end this decades long injustice. If Primark truly wants to be successful in their plans, we ask that they back our proposal to make payment of a living wage a legally enforceable reality. Garment workers cannot wait another day.”
Raakhi Shah, CEO of The Circle, comments: “Big fashion brands committing to raise wages in their supply chains is to be welcomed. However, they operate in a highly competitive market which sees them aggressively negotiating with supplier factories on price. This drives down workers’ wages and disincentivises governments to enforce a living wage for fear of losing contracts. Big brands have made bold statements before – yet very little has changed for the garment workers who still face a life of indignity and poverty. We firmly believe that the only true solution to the decades long injustice of poverty wages in fashion’s global supply chains is new legislation that creates a race to the top, and disincentivises production countries competing for business by maintaining low statutory wages.”
Back to News