Made in Europe textile workers toil below poverty line

The NGO Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) has published a study conducted in nine countries in Eastern Europe and Turkey, revealing working conditions and wages that give Asia no reason for envy. According to the organization, buying more expensive clothes and sourcing from European production does nothing to improve working conditions.



And it is precisely this "myth" that the CCC wants to debunk through its study of working conditions in Romania, Ukraine, Turkey, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovakia, Georgia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Moldova.

Not surprisingly, these countries mainly produce for European brands, says the NGO, mentioning Hugo Boss, Adidas, Zara, H & M and Benetton. And while Zara and H&M have hardly been affected by the economic crisis, working conditions for laborers at the two giant apparel companies have apparently actually worsened since 2008/2009, says the report.

According to the CCC, the minimum wage for textile workers only covered 14% of the minimum "subsistence" wage in Bulgaria, Macedonia and Ukraine, and 36% in Croatia. Besides wages, the report denounced antisocial measures, particularly efforts against worker's interest in forming unions. And even when workers managed to unionize, their representatives supposedly are not be able to bargain for higher wages, as their efforts are mostly directed toward fighting unpaid overtime or non-payment of social security contributions.

"Campaigners and workers are calling on European fashion brands to make sure as a first immediate step that workers in the researched region receive a basic net wage of at least 60% of the national average wage," said the NGO.

"Buying prices must be calculated on this basis and allow for these wage hikes. Brands need to act now and make sure that garment workers in their own supply chain – be it Asia or Europe- receive a living wage."

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