Letter: Retailers' power over fair pay

Retailers' power over fair pay

Sir: Tim McGirk is right to point out that in many instances workers in the Indian garments industry, like Mohammed Hassan, are by local standards comparatively better off than workers in alternative industries ("Where hope begins with slave wages", 20 May).

This also applies to neighbouring Bangladesh and its mainly female garment industry workforce. However, this is no reason not to work towards improving Mr Hassan's life and the lives of the millions of other garment industry workers worldwide.

The employment rights of garments workers in the informal sector are issues which could be addressed through localised government reforms and legislation - retailers, suppliers, manufacturers, governments and the international community all have a part to play in the fight for garments workers' basic rights.

Far from calling for industry to stop buying clothes from factories with bad working conditions, Oxfam wants positive action to improve and strengthen the industry in India and elsewhere.

Retailers such as Marks and Spencer, who this week have announced such a strong increase in profits over the past year, hold the economic power in the supply chain. They are being positively challenged to take steps which could vastly improve workers' basic rights - steps which would require only a relatively small amount of extra attention and extra expenditure.

It is time for the retailers to prove they care as much for the basic rights of the workers as for the growth of their already substantial profit margins.


Oxfam UK and Ireland