10 Biggest Excuses For Not Paying a Living Wage (And Why They Suck)

by , 09/28/12   filed under: Features, Worker Rights

Clean Clothes Campaign, sweatshops, sweatshop labor, sweatshop workers, forced labor, human rights, workers rights, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style

Photo by Anti-Slavery International.

7. OUR COMPANY CODE OF CONDUCT SAYS WE PAY A FAIR WAGE

Putting a code of conduct on a website is not a guarantee that a fair wage is being paid. This is not to say that having this in a code of conduct cannot be useful. It can be used to hold companies to account and, if workers know about the code and what it contains, they can use this to demand better wages.

Putting a code of conduct on a website is not a guarantee that a fair wage is being paid.

The problem is that codes are only worthwhile when proper procedures are in place to implement, monitor, and verify these standards. Companies have to check whether the code is actually implemented and work with supplier factories to make sure that improvements are happening. It also isn’t enough to say that a “fair wage” is paid. Companies need to publicly state what “fair wage” means, using real figures and methodology, as well as publish a plan for how they intend to achieve it.

Clean Clothes Campaign, sweatshops, sweatshop labor, sweatshop workers, forced labor, human rights, workers rights, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style

8. THE ECONOMIC CRISIS HAS CRIPPLED OUR ABILITY TO PAY A HIGHER PRICE

While we acknowledge that the economic crisis has had an impact on company profits, this is a very separate matter to the right to a living wage. A living wage shouldn’t be an bonus that companies can choose or not choose to pay depending on the stock-market performance.

A living wage shouldn’t be an bonus that companies can choose or not choose to pay depending on the stock-market performance.

Workers need a living wage not as a favor but as a necessity, whether it is the right time economically or not. A living wage isn’t only the privilege of the rich.

Clean Clothes Campaign, sweatshops, sweatshop labor, sweatshop workers, forced labor, human rights, workers rights, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style

9. HIGHER WAGES WILL DRAW LOW-PAID NURSES AND TEACHERS INTO THE GARMENT INDUSTRY AND RUIN LOCAL EDUCATION AND WELFARE

Although this appears to be the case at first, this argument underestimates the positive impact higher wages in manufacturing may have on public- and private-sector jobs.

A living wage in manufacturing could see local economies lifted across all sectors and allow developing countries to progress.

With a rise in manufacturing salaries, local governments will receive a higher tax income, allowing them to offer competitive salaries to teachers and nurses. Likewise, with more money circulating in local economies, and more tax paid by public sector workers, the national treasury will receive a boost.

A living wage in manufacturing could see local economies lifted across all sectors and allow developing countries to progress. Although the garment industry purports to benefit developing country national treasuries, it actually prohibits development. All the benefits of cheap labor are siphoned off to profit top-level executives and international shareholders.

Clean Clothes Campaign, sweatshops, sweatshop labor, sweatshop workers, forced labor, human rights, workers rights, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style

10. OUR SHAREHOLDERS DON’T SUPPORT LIVING WAGES FOR WORKERS

It’s a sad fact that companies cannot make decisions based on human rights but have to find the business case for doing the right thing. This fact isn’t going to change. But that doesn’t make it impossible to convince shareholders of the necessity to take action.

Companies like Marks & Spencer use “ethical practices” as their selling points and have increased profits by investing in CSR initiatives.

In 2009, following a series of media exposés, Primark shareholders agreed to appoint a CSR director to the company board, as well as employ a CSR team to address labor rights. Companies like Marks & Spencer use “ethical practices” as their selling points and have increased profits by investing in CSR initiatives.

Furthermore, on the factory level, studies have shown that workers who are well-nourished, work regular hours, and are paid well, work more productively and produce a better product. There are plenty of business cases for paying a living wage. With the right discussions with shareholders, there is no reason support cannot be built.

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4 Responses to “10 Biggest Excuses For Not Paying a Living Wage (And Why They Suck)”

  1. fasionpunk says:

    What if we gave the consumer the choice of paying 1 to 3 percent more of the total cost of most clothing?

  2. Elisabel says:

    OK, i tell my employer all this and he say: “Go work somewhere else”. I know my rights, but behind me there are lots of othere workers ready to take my place. There’s no cost to the companies.
    The bottom is this: goverment want this to happen!! They have policy, they have rules, but companies doesn’t implement them and gov. doesn’t check if they’re implementing them.
    We are alone!
    And i’m from other country.. this happens all over the glove.

  3. Brulee says:

    It used to be that the cheaper options came from places with cheap labour but now most things seem to come from China or places with child/cheap labour? Not only is this cruel but also many things only last for a few washes/wear before defects are found, the profits must be huge, even ‘throwaway’ goods like oral B and other toothbrushes,a few pounds each and made in China how much money made there?

    Some of the Victorians tried to change slave labour and child labour but now moved away it seems to flourish

  4. theemilytree@gmail.com (@theemilytree) says:

    I try to source my clothing from ethical brands. By finding brands whose identity is based on fair trade, and who are fair trade certified, you can ensure that your clothing isn’t marred by the ugliness of human exploitation. I currently work for INDIGENOUS – http//:www.indigenous.com – and I am able to buy all organic and fair trade clothing from them and other brands that have made it their mission to put people and planet before profit.

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