More than 2.3 million -- predominantly women -- work in the garment and shoe industry in Central, East and Southeast Europe. They are paid poverty wages. The statutory minimum net wages in these countries are below the statistical poverty lines defined by the EU and do not prevent workers from falling into poverty.
At the same time, profits being made by brands and retailers in the garment supply chain are enormous, even during the pandemic. With the threat of relocation, brands and retailers benefit from the international competition between countries and regions. When brands have the power to pressure the price the bargaining power of workers and unions is weakened.
Minimum wages keep workers in poverty. Even though a living wage is a human right and acknowledged by the EU, minimum wages are so low that workers are kept in poverty.
“There are times when we have nothing to eat.”
female worker from Ukraine
In response to this unacceptable situation, Clean Clothes Campaign has developed the Europe Floor Wage, a cross-border base living wage benchmark which is based on the costs of living in 15 European garment production countries, including 7 EU Member states. The methodology for the benchmark has been developed through 6 years of thorough research. During the development various experts were consulted within and outside the Clean Clothes Campaign network, among other the Asia Floor Wage Alliance.
The Europe Floor Wage benchmark is a concrete tool to show brands and governments what wage is needed to live on and it can be used by unions and labour NGOs to strengthen their bargaining power.
“If brands are serious about paying living wages to the workers in their supply chain in Central, East and Southeast Europe they should use this tool. There is no excuse.”
Mario Ivekovic, President of Novi Sindikat (New Union), Croatia
It’s about time that the workers in Central, East and Southeast producing clothes to European citizens are paid a decent wage. Therefore, we demand that fashion brands and retailers set public, concrete, measurable steps for their entire supply chain, in order to ensure garment workers are paid a living wage within a reasonable time frame. At the governmental level we demand that the EU and national governments in consumer and producing countries in Europe, protect workers’ human right to a living wage and implement legal minimum wages that fight poverty.
Find out more here.