I spotted an article on Drapers website today about Primark making improvements to its commitment to paying overseas workers a living minimum wage. This was according to the third Let’s Clean Up Fashion report published by pressure group Labour Behind the Label. I’m quite involved with this group and earlier this year I raised money for them by working at Leeds Festival through Workers Beer.
According to Drapers, Primark, which fell into the “unconvincing” category on Labour Behind the Label’s living wage strategy last year, has moved into the report’s top tier of retailers working to increase wages, having instigated a number of joint projects with trade unions and non-government organisations on a local level to protect wages.
Up Fashion report scores fashion retailers based on submissions they make to the not-for-profit organisation detailing measures they are taking to ensure overseas workers in their supply chains are not exploited.
Primark joined Gap, Marks & Spencer, Monsoon, New Look and Next in scoring highly. All of these retailers demonstrated a systematic approach to wage increase.
Meanwhile the fourth annual report said that George at Asda, Clarks, Debenhams, French Connection, John Lewis, Laura Ashley, Levi Strauss & Co, Matalan, River Island and Sainsbury’s had not provided concrete information about any plans to address the living wage issue.
Labour Behind the Label’s campaigns co-ordinator Anna McMullen, said: “We were particularly disappointed with the supermarkets this year. Last year, Asda’s submission made reference to a ‘living wage’ and what they were paying in relation to that, whereas this year they just told us they do audits but didn’t go into detail.”
She added: “Sainsbury’s was also a bit of a disappointment. Each year they say they are planning projects with the Ethical Trading Initiative but never give concrete facts.”
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson responded: “We have ongoing relationships with suppliers as well as a system of auditing to ensure that our standards are being met.”
Companies said to have gone some way towards making changes were Arcadia Group, Aurora Fashions, Burberry and Tesco, with both Aurora Fashions and Burberry showing an improvement on last year’s rating.
Five other retailers were approached by Labour Behind the Label but the pressure said they did not respond. These were Alexon, Bhs, Ethel Austin, House of Fraser and Peacocks. It is understood that Bhs will contribute next year once its integration into the Arcadia Group is complete. Alexon said it did not remember receiving a request and said it would happily share information with Labour Behind the Label in the future.
None of the retailers questioned met Labour Behind the Label’s own standards of what constitutes a fair living wage.