Dutch workwear brand Schijvens managed to establish a living wage at their supplier in Turkey. They learned some valuable lessons during the process, including figuring out the needs of local workers and the importance of raising all salaries (not just the lowest ones) to maintain wage differences that reflect workers’ skills and experience.
In January 2016, FWF brand Continental Clothing launched its new FAIR SHARE range of T-shirts and sweatshirts, which carries a small price premium to enhance workers’ wages. Continental received the 2016 FWF Best Practice Award for this inspiring project.
Thanks to a modest increase in the retail cost of the clothing produced at its supplier factory in India, Continental was able to raise the wages of the poorest workers by 50 percent. The British company took care to ensure that additional cost at the point of sale of 10p (0.14€) per T-shirt and 54p (0.71€) per hoody is passed on in its entirety to the workers, avoiding additional markups as the clothes move along the value chain.
In this Best Practice video (here you can find the long version), FWF follows Continental’s Mariusz Stojach as he visits the factory in Tirupur, talks to the workers about their needs and assesses the project with the NGO SAVE, a partner in the project. As he charts the history of the project, he discusses the challenges of increasing costs and the benefits of close cooperation with suppliers.
Since FAIR SHARE was launched, all workers at the factory in India receive a regular bonus, which has boosted their income, even if it still falls short of a proper Living Wage. The company now plans to extend the project further, to reach all levels of its supply chain.
As part of the Living Wage Incubator, a group of innovative FWF brands is taking action to increase wages for the workers who make their products. Where do they need to start?
1. Success factors for selecting pilot project locations
A SOLID SOURCING RELATIONSHIP
- Both the factory and the brand are committed to a long-term working relationship.
- Select a partner factory that fosters mutual trust and openness.
STRONG WORKER-MANAGEMENT DIALOGUe
- Ideally, trade unions are active and there is a history of collective bargaining.
- If trade unions are not present: are there worker committees that are elected by workers?
- At a minimum, FWF advises its brands to partner with factories where the WEP training programme has been rolled out.
SHARED COMMITMENT FROM OTHER SOURCING BRANDS
- Pilot projects will be more effective if other brands share the commitment and help cover the costs of increased wages.
FWF is very happy to launch Living Wages: An Explorer’s Notebook, the next step forward in figuring out the routes brands and factories can take to achieve payment of living wages. The innovative guide offers concrete advice, based on real-life experience.
The Notebook defines nine obstacles that stand in the way of living wages, and offers some solutions for overcoming them. ‘For the first time, garment brands can access real life examples and concrete guidance on implementing higher wages,’ explains FWF’s Associate Director Sophie Koers. ‘For example on how to select a factory partner, collaborate with other brands and set the target wage.’
‘Start paying higher wages. Now. Analyse what worked and what didn’t. And then keep going.’
This sentence summarises FWF’s advice to brands that seek to make real strides towards living wages in their supply chains. And it offers more concrete advice on how to do this in Living Wages: An Explorer’s Notebook.
Use the tools below to further support efforts to raise wages in your supply chain.
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In 2013, FWF member Switcher embarked on an experimental project to implement living wages in a portion of its supply chain. FWF recently interviewed Switcher’s Gilles Dana to learn more about the process.
The story of FWF member brand Mayerline and one of its suppliers, the first Turkish knitwear company with a Collective Bargaining Agreement
Effective collective bargaining is the most sustainable way to improve working conditions and help secure living wages for workers in the garment sector. Brand involvement can be crucial in creating an enabling environment. This is clearly shown by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) signed in December 2013 between the Textile, Knitting and Clothing Workers’ Union of Turkey (Teksif) and a supplier of FWF member brand Mayerline.
The FWF approach to living wages is pretty simple:
At FWF we are doing all three of these in tandem. Of course, of these three tranches of work, the third is the most important for workers. And to take effective action on wages, FWF members and stakeholders need tools. To this end, tool development continues.