After two weeks of strike and work stoppage at the Falc East plant in Knjaževac, Serbia, an agreement was reached on 16 June between the trade union Sloga and the company management. The agreement provides for a ten percent increase in wages effective from 19 June, as well as an increase in meal vouchers and a commitment to discuss an increase in incentives from September.
This is an important victory for the employees of Falc East, a subsidiary of the Italian Falc and supplier of prestigious global luxury brands including Balenciaga, Gucci (Kering Group), Burberry, and Hogan (TODs Group), who had been complaining about starvation wages for a long time, further affected by the crisis and inflation.
In fact, around 80% of workers in the Falc East factory received very low wages, close to the statistical poverty line for Serbia, barely a third of what should be the living wage for 2021 as calculated by the European Floor Wage.
The agreement was reached thanks to the great mobilisation of the workers led by the Sloga union, who had the strength and courage to expose themselves, giving up 11 days' wages in order to show the unsustainability of their working conditions. The courageous wage struggle of the Knjaževac workers was supported by numerous Clean Clothes Campaign organisations who, in addition to signing a public statement in their support, contacted Falc East's client brands to intervene to ensure a positive solution to the wage dispute. As established by international law and soon to be introduced in the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive in the following months, luxury brands have a responsibility to ensure that workers producing their goods receive a living wage, a basic human right. This is bound to the adoption of fair commercial practices including the payment of adequate prices.
For workers who struggle every day to make ends meet, going on strike for a fortnight is not a simple choice. That is why CCC Italy and CCC Serbia together with Falc East workers initiated a fund-raising campaign to help to contribute to covering 11 days of income loss of the 600 striking workers. The same request was made to international luxury brands, the real employers of Falc East workers.
The courageous struggle of the Falc East workers is an example for all workers in Serbia and in Europe. Organisations in the Clean Clothes Campaign network will continue to support them along with all struggles for decent working conditions in the global fashion industry, starting with the struggle for a living wage.