Workers need a wage to live on – A Living Wage

The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), supported by transform! europe, presents a policy paper on workers’ wages in the garment and sportswear industries in Central, Eastern, and Southern Europe.

More than 2 million, predominantly women, work in the garment and shoe industry in Central, Eastern and Southeast Europe. Poverty wages are a disgracuful reality for these people. The statutory minimum wages in these countries are way below the statistical poverty lines as defined by the EU, they do not prevent workers from falling into poverty.
At the same time the profits being made by brands and retaliers in the garment supply chain are enormous. They benefit from the international competition between countries and regions in attracting foreign direct investments. Given the balance of power in national goverments and the European Commission and International Monetary Fund, it is not surprising that goverments accept the dire poverty of their minimum wage earners.

Policy Paper
Another Wage Is Possible
Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC)

Please find the ePaper on the right/below (mobile version) in ‘Documents’ (English, PDF).

The Clean Clothes Campaign is a global network dedicated to improving working conditions and empowering workers in the global garment and sportswear industries. Since 2014 CCC has been working on developing a methodology for a cross-border base living wage benchmark for European garment production countries. After many deliberations CCC developed the concept of Europe Floor Wage. In order to develop this concept and benchmark a field research was done in 15 countries (including 7 EU Member States): Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, North Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Turkey, and Ukraine.

It seems to be widely presumed that working conditions and wages in European fashion production are better than in Asia. In fact the gap between the minimus and actual wage of workers and an estimated minimum living wage tends to be bigger in Europe than in Asia. In Central, East and Southeast Europe we find a comparatively low level of unionization in general and in particular in the garment industry.

In response to this unsustainable and untenable situation CCC developed the concept of Europe Floor Wage, a unique cross-border base living wage benchmark. The years of fieldwork and cooperation with workers enabled us to etstablish a methodology for calculating the living wage, which, on the one hand, is based on the cost of living, while, on the other hand, responds to the challange of competition in attracting foreign direct investments.

The human right to a living wage is a human right established in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the European context, the Council of Europe´s 1965 European Social Charter (ESC) and its revised version of 1999 codify the right to a living wage in Article 4.

What are the main, agreed features of a living wage?

As a universally applicable human right, it reaches out to all workers irrespective of their status in the workplace, their productivity or personal situation (example marital status). It is the lowest paid wage and nor worker earns less than the defined living wage. It must always be sufficient to meet the basic needs of workers – including food, clothing, housing, public transport, utilities and communication, education, leisure and culture, normal health and hygiene costs, and holidays (a one-week trip within the country) and those of their families, which go beyond mere survival but enable the family´s participation in societal life. A living wage should provide a discretionary income for emergencies. It must be earned during regular working hours, i.e. without overtime.

The demands pushed by CCC are directed towards brands, retailers and governments. Fashion brands and retailers should set public, concrete, measurable steps for their entire supply chain to ensure garment workers are paid a living wage within a reasonable timeframe. Goverments, both in consumer and producing countries in Europe, as well as the EU, have the duty to protect worker´s human right to a living wage and to implement legal minimum wages the fight poverty rather than creating and impoverished and socially excluded workforce.

For more information, please visit the CCC website.