Revealed: The high-street shops that do not pay their garment workers a living wage

Debenhams, Matalan and The North Face are among the worst

Debenhams, Matalan and The North Face are among the worst high-street clothing shops at paying a fair wage to those who make their products, according to a report to be published tomorrow.

An analysis of 40 top European clothing brands shows that many major chains are doing very little to make sure that the foreign workers who produce their goods are paid a living wage.

A study, “Tailored Wages”, is being published to coincide with the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory disaster in Dhaka, Bangladesh, when the building collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people; the report will highlight the iniquities of the global fashion industry.

Most of its workers cannot afford to live with dignity; they earn no more than £5 a day in an industry worth more than £28bn across Europe, the report points out.

A garment worker in Bangladesh A garment worker in Bangladesh Half of the companies surveyed had wording in their codes of conduct specifying that wages should be enough to meet workers’ basic needs. But only four brands – Inditex, Marks & Spencer, Switcher and Tchibo – were able to demonstrate clear progress towards implementing them. Labour Behind the Label, a campaign for workers’ rights, says even these four have a long way to go before a living wage is realised for garment workers.

Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow and Labour’s education spokesperson, is Britain’s first MP of Bangladeshi descent. After the Rana Plaza disaster, she was forthright in her demands for better worker protection for those making clothes that are sold in the UK.

Deadly job: More than 1,000 garment workers were killed in the Rana Plaza factory collapse Deadly job: More than 1,000 garment workers were killed in the Rana Plaza factory collapse “At the time [of the disaster], international opinion was mobilised against the exploitation of low-paid garment workers in Bangladesh,” she said. “But one area of such exploitation is untouched: unfair wages. Companies … need to wake up – now – and finally offer garment workers a fair wage for the clothes they produce”

Living wage levels are, on average, three times the minimum wage a garment worker receives in key garment-producing countries such as Cambodia, according to Asia Floor Wage, an alliance of trade unions and labour rights activists that contributed to the report. Cambodian workers currently receive £60 a month – just 25 per cent of a living wage for the country.

Anna McMullen, campaigns director for Labour Behind the Label, said: “The report shows that brand progress is starting, but it is all too slow, and only undertaken by the few. Right now workers making the clothes we wear are having to make choices between buying shoes for their children or having something to eat for dinner.

“Vast company profits show that a living wage for garment workers is affordable. Doubling the wage of workers who make a T-shirt can cost as little as 20p.”

The good

Marks & Spencer

A publicity shot of the latest range from M&S A publicity shot of the latest range from M&S The plan is to guarantee by 2015 that workers in the least developed countries will be awarded living wages, in particular in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India. Training programmes have been implemented, but hardly any of them involve participation by the trade unions. Buyers encouraged to prioritise ethical businesses.

Inditex: Zara

The firm has agreed to pay living wages, and discussed rates with local trade unions. But this strategy depends on the assumption that trade unions have enough strength and political power to negotiate fairly – which is sometimes not the case. A spokesperson said: “Inditex wants to go beyond just the implementation of its compliance programme to bring about positive change throughout its supply chain.”

The bad

Debenhams

More effort is needed from the popular department store, according to the report. Debenhams says its stringent monitoring of minimum wages in its factories ensures fair pay, and its code of conduct gives factory managers guidelines to ensure workers’ rights. But the absence of a living wage benchmark and outdated factory inspection systems lack what is needed to facilitate change. A spokesman said: “Debenhams has an active strategy in place to work towards a realistic living wage being paid … We work closely with our suppliers and in conjunction with other retailers via the Ethical Trading Initiative to ensure workers receive fair pay.”

Mango

The company achieved one of the lowest scores in the survey because its code of conduct does not refer to living wage regulations: it states minimum wages “will be considered the legal minimum, not the recommended wage level”. Some workers are members of trade unions; but while involvement with the Spanish trade union CCOO is a positive sign, improvement is needed in other territories – 42 per cent of its production takes place in China.

Matalan

While the group’s position on the living wage states that “workers should be paid a reasonable living wage”, there is no evidence that the company, which includes brands such as Papaya, Falmer Heritage and Rogers & Rogers, has systems in place to ensure that this happens. The report also dubbed its audit model “outdated”. No official complaint mechanism has been put in place: the company relies on worker committees as spaces where problematic issues can be put forward.

VF Corporation: The North Face

The corporation behind The North Face, Timberland and Vans included in its code of conduct that it would pay “legally mandated minimum standards or the prevailing industry wage, whichever is higher”. Although it recognises the wages it provides are often not enough to meet the basic needs of its workers, VF Corporation is trying to engage in more systemic approaches to creating “sustainable living environments” – something that the report does not believe is within the company’s remit.

Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
Sport
Angel Di Maria poses with Louis van Gaal after signing for Manchester United
sport
News
peopleGerman paper published pictures of 18-month-old daughter
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
'A voice untroubled by time': Kate Bush
musicReview: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Life and Style
tech
News
people
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses paparazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
News
Ukrainian Leonid Stadnik, 37, 2.59 meter (8,5 feet) tall, the world's tallest living man, waves as he poses for the media by the Chevrolet Tacuma car presented to him by President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko in Kiev on March 24, 2008.
newsPeasant farmer towered at almost 8'5'' - but shunned the limelight
News
Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in ‘The Front Page’, using an old tech typewriter
media
Life and Style
Could a robot sheepdog find itself working at Skipton Auction Mart?
techModel would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Test Job

TBC: Test Recruiter for iJobs: Job London (Greater)

Head of Marketing - Pensions

£65000 - £75000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

SEN (Visual Impairement) Tutor

£120 - £180 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are looki...

School Receptionist

£70 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: School Receptionist - Part ...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis