H&M, safety upgrades at factories ‘painfully slow’

H&M is rapidly expanding it’s retail empire in Australia, which would be fine if the chain wasn’t being criticised for widespread labor rights violation and the “painfully slow” progress of safety renovations at the factories. I just did a blog based on an Asia Floor Wage Alliance report, that based on 251 interviews with workers from 17 H&M supplier factories in Cambodia and India, found women were routinely fired if they became pregnant, if they did intend to keep their pregnancy. So not only is H&M in the news for firing pregnant workers, there now in the news for safety renovation. I have to wonder what’s next for H&M.

Red: Current countries H&M operates in. Pink: Planned expansion.

Red: Current countries H&M operates in. Pink: Planned expansion.

Not only is getting fired for being pregnant and safety issues a problem in the factories, illegal short-term contracts, sexual harassment, low wages and forced overtime is also a issue. Nine out of 12 factories reported sexual harassment at work. So not only do these women in these factories have to worry about being fired if they get pregnant but while at work they are being sexually harassed. Low wages and overtime has always been a problem, women already have to deal with that, so let’s make their lives a little more worse by adding more to their plate. 

Hundreds of Phnom Penh workers are camping outside their shuttered garment factory to demand Walmart and H&M pay them the wages they are owed.

Hundreds of Phnom Penh workers are camping outside their shuttered garment factory to demand Walmart and H&M pay them the wages they are owed.

Alliance’s Anannya Bhattacharjee told Fairfax Media from India, “H&M’s response to our report has been completely inadequate.” “H&M has told us they are testing out new practices with pilot factories, but when we asked them for names of the factories they refused to tell us.” So why isn’t H&M not giving out the names of the factories? If they are indeed testing out new practices with pilot factories than why won’t they give names? It seems to me they are either not doing what they say or there just tell us what they want us to hear because they hope we will go away. 

H&M alone has opened nine stores in Australia in two years, with plans to double the number by the year’s end. But the global supply chain, heavily reliant on cheap labor, has seen workers suffer and their lives placed at risk. So they just keep opening up more stores while turning a blind eye to what is going on in there other stores. How can you keep opening new stores, while the employees in your factories – mainly women- are suffering? How can you ignore whats going on in these factories? 

A separate report on H&M’s safety efforts in Bangladesh – three years after the Rana Plaza factory collapse and signing of a pact to protect workers – revealed most of its factories were behind schedule, with 70 per cent of its 54 “gold and platinum” suppliers lacking adequate fire exits. On average each of these factories still has 26 uncompleted renovations, the pace of safety renovations is slow but yet they have no problem opening up more stores. Liana Foxvog, from the International Labour Rights Forum, told Fairfax Media from the United States, “It is unacceptable in the majority of H&M factories in Bangladesh workers still run the risk of being trapped in the building in case of a fire”. There are about 140,000 workers in H&M’s “gold and platinum” factories. According to H&M Australia’s spokeswoman said delays in the “huge and complex work” were partly caused by import delays of safety equipment and the lack of technical expertise in Bangladesh.”Initial timelines for remediation set up by the Accord were also too optimistic,” She said safety upgrades were being “gradually implemented” and its suppliers have reported all locking features as well as all collapsible, sliding or rolling shutter doors have been removed – which the Clean Clothes Campaign disputes.


In regards to the Asia Flood Wage Alliance report, the spokeswoman said the labour rights violations highlighted were industry-wide problems. “They are often difficult to address as an individual company and we firmly believe that collaboration is key,” she said.”That is why partnerships with organisations such as the ILO, Better Work, SIDA as well as global and local trade unions are important.” H&M was awarded a “B+”, based on the self-reported strength of its labour rights efforts, in the latest Australian Fashion Report by Baptist World Aid. H&M said the high grade was obtained by providing “accurate information of [their] efforts”.

But founder of ethical clothing brand Etiko, which nabbed an A+, said the report, in its effort to scrutinise local and global brands, had potential to confuse consumers.”Paying 100 per cent living wage nets an A+ rating, while some respondents who could only show that a living wage is paid in 1 per cent to 25 per cent of facilities still achieved an A rating,” said Etiko’s Nick Savaidis. He also pointed out his claims were backed up by third-party certification, such as Fairtrade, unlike most others.
“It is also important for consumers to remember the underlying fast fashion model, of high volume and low margin, is a big part of why there have been so many problems for so long in garment supply chains,” he said.

In the first accounts H&M Australia posted a net profit of $3,831,000 for the financial year to November 30, 2015, a turnaround from the loss of $1,475,000 recorded in 2014.
It was the first ever profit; sales for 2015 almost tripled, rising to $161,940,000 in 2015 against $67,680,000 in 2014. Gross profit more than doubled to $111,370,000.

I myself, don’t buy from H&M. Yes, I’ve been in their store but I’m also not a teenager. I cannot fathom how they make money, other than I know teenager’s love the store. Personally even if I was a teenager I woudn’t buy from there store which would probably make me uncool. Knowing the facts of how they treat their workers and how they can just ignore what is going on makes me sick. You make millions of dollars with your fast fashion and yet you can’t treat your workers right. Without them you wouldn’t be in buisness because no clothes would be made at all, but these people need these jobs and fact is just to keep there job there willing to do a black market abortion, which isnt right. A women should have the right to be able to still work and be pregnant. We have those rights here, how are they any different from us? 


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