Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Retail clothing buyers to make a difference through contracts?

I think we all felt the stain of shame with the deaths of so many low paid garment factory workers in Dhaka some months ago. Even Michael Fallon, a government minister, summoned the great and the good of retail procurement to take corrective action.

It's not remotely clear what actually changed but here's a suggestion.

Given the UK debate on the cost of living and whether the living wage should be mandated in government contracts, that the average wage of a garment factory worker in Bangladesh (making UK High Street brands) is only $39 per month, that police have just used rubber bullets and teargas to quash a protest of 400,000 garment workers seeking a monthly wage of $100 (£62) which led to production stoppages in 200 factories, that the Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association have just rejected the recommendation of the Bangladesh Minimum Wage Board to pay a rate of $67 per month, why don't UK High Street retailers collectively place a contractual obligation on their suppliers to pay the minimum wage agreed by the Bangladesh Minimum Wage Board, backdated to its date of recommendation? Is that too much to demand? Too much of a Christmas present? Too reasonable? Too responsible?

P.S. 14 November 2013 following the intervention of the Bangladesh Prime Minister the Garment Manufacturers and Exporter Association have accepted the Board's recommendation. UK buyers should still enforce adherence through contracts though otherwise there's a risk that implementation will not take place. 

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