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The payment of living wages – wages which meet the basic needs of workers and their families – is one of the most complex and challenging issues in the garment industry. Innovative approaches for implementing living wages are being developed, promising to have a major impact on lifting millions of garment workers out of poverty. Living wages will be one of FWF’s major focus areas over the coming few years, and we will be sharing developments in this area on a regular basis.
FWF’s newest contribution to improving wages is the Wage Ladder, a tool that compares a factory’s wages with benchmarks developed by a range of stakeholder organisations. Data is provided in an easy-to-understand visual format. The Wage Ladder was previewed at FWF’s Members’ Day in March, and is in beta testing now. There has been a great deal of interest in the Wage Ladder, and FWF expects to release a public version in late summer.
Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and ActionAid organised a roundtable on living wages in June. ActionAid presented an eight-step model for progress towards living wages, based in part on work by Northumbria University Professor Doug Miller. Several companies presented their approaches, including an ambitious project by Marks and Spencer to demonstrate the linkages between improved efficiency, higher wages, and decreased absenteeism and worker turnover in factories in Bangladesh.
The Fair Labour Association (FLA) recently adopted a new Workplace Code of Conduct that includes explicit language regarding the need for compensation to meet basic needs. In connection with FLA’s annual meeting, FWF participated in a roundtable during which many stakeholders shared their recent experiences in improving wages. An encouraging general consensus emerged from the group that the industry needs to start addressing wage issues more actively.
For more detailed information, please see FWF’s living wage policy.