BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 26 Apr '18

Fairtrade calls on more fashion brands to set a deadline to start paying living wages

To mark Fashion Revolution Week, the Fairtrade Foundation is calling on more fashion and apparel brands and retailers to set a deadline by which they will deliver living wages in their supply chain.

On the 5th anniversary of the Rana Plaza garment factory disaster, in which 1,138 people died, Fairtrade is asking the industry to pledge to end poverty wages and ensure a fair deal for the people who make the clothes we wear.

The dark side of fashion

To highlight the issue, a new video shines a light on the dark side of the fashion industry and shows how we as consumers can play our part in improving the lives of garment workers.

The video shows that, despite spending £27 billion on clothes in the UK each year, it’s very easy to lose touch with how much our clothes really cost to produce when retailers slash their prices and wow us with bargains, or when big brands charge more for their labels.

But what is the real cost of our obsession with cheap fashion, and how can we make sure a fair price is being paid to the people doing the hard work so they can care for their families?

‘Too many fashion brands and retailers are still just paying lip service for living wages to textile workers. Several have made public statements supporting minimum wage hikes, but none have published any tangible time-bound results showing their efforts to reach these goals, so these commitments are all shirt and no trousers.

‘Eighteen months since launching our Textile Standard and our accompanying Programme, we’ve learned that although it’s challenging, it’s possible to deliver transformative change to garment workers by combining a comprehensive on-site support programme for factories in close collaboration with local NGOs and trade unions.’

SUBINDU GARKHEL
Fairtrade’s cotton and textiles manager

The Fairtrade textile standard

The Fairtrade Foundation has acknowledged that certification and audits by themselves are not sufficient. As a result, it has developed an extensive textile programme to complement the Fairtrade textile standard. This includes consulting and training at the factories and workers with the help of local experts, training workshops and trade unions. Fairtrade Textile Programme also offers a dedicated productivity and efficiency training programme for factories.

Since the standard was first launched, the Fairtrade Foundation says ‘much has been achieved in the areas of workers’ rights awareness, strengthening their representation and capacity building of local trade unions and factory managers’.

Suguna Ekambaram is a Fairtrade garment worker and is on the Environmental Committee at her workplace, Armstrong Spinning Mill, representing herself and the people she works with. ‘If I have a problem I take it to the committee and I resolve my problem’, she says. ‘If my colleagues have issues within the company they convey them to me, I take immediate steps to speak to the management to resolve the problem and we work happily. I am very delighted to work for this company.’