The Next Hot Trend? H&M Pledges Living Wages for Its Garment Factory Workers in Bangladesh

AP PHOTOThe usual narrative goes like this: big government has to step in and flex its muscle when big corporations fail to do the right thing. Government is a necessity to provide safeguards for the environment, economic fairness, our health, the food we eat and the planes we fly in — when greed can often interfere with the greater good. This week, H&M reversed the story. Governments in Bangladesh and Cambodia aren't doing enough, according to the second largest clothing retailer in the world, so H&M is instituting its own minimum wage requirements at the factories that manufacture its goods. This week, in Bangladesh and Cambodia, H&M had to step in when those governments failed to do the right thing.

According to the Guardian:

H&M has pledged to pay a living wage to 850,000 textile workers after expressing frustration over a lack of action by governments to address working conditions in Asian factories in the wake of the Rena Plaza disaster.

Earlier this year at a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1,129 workers were killed when the massive clothing manufacturing site collapsed. According the Guardian, "H&M did not have clothes made at the site and was the first company to sign a safety agreement for Bangladeshi factories after the disaster."

Beginning next year, H&M will support owners of two factories in Bangladesh and one in Cambodia to provide the garment workers with a fair living wage. The company will use the Fair Wage Method to determine what exactly that compensation will be — but it's a good bet that it'll be more than the 77 percent raise issued to garment workers earlier this month. That seemingly huge jump still kept workers earning just $66 per month.

H&M's pledge extends to cover the 750 factories that supply the Swedish company's clothes by 2018. The company said that it would not impose a specific salary figure, instead working with countries and factories to negotiate wages that would enable its workers to have a decent standard of living.

For once, while talking about a multi-national corporation and its labor practices abroad, "decent" might actually be the key word here.

 

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Brandon Perkins
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