News article

H&M fair living wage strategy update

The work within the H&M Fair Living Wage strategy is progressing according to plan. The collaborative approach in combination with a methodical way of working makes it possible to take steps in the right direction.

4 Apr, 2016

At this time, H&M is focusing on taking the work to scale and sees positive progress within several initiatives and programmes – all aiming at establishing a foundation for fair living wages in the H&M supply chain.

First, H&M is continuing to implement the Fair Wage Method, developed by the independent Fair Wage Network, at an increasing number of factories; 68 during 2015 and an additional 78 during 2016. At the end of this year, supplier factories in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, China and Turkey will be covered. The main focus is to contribute to pay structures enabling fair living wages as well as improve the dialogue between the employers and the factory employees – an important part of the H&M fair living wage strategy.

Secondly, the progress of the H&M Social Dialogue program – aiming for democratically elected and effective employee committees at factories – continues. Today, more than 40 percent of the factories producing for H&M in Bangladesh are covered. The program is also available in India and China. Social dialogue is fundamental in the Fair Wage Method and necessary when laying the groundwork for fair living wages.

Thirdly, the H&M partnership with the ILO within the Industrial Relations project has resulted in positive changes in attitudes as well as regular meetings between management and trade unions in the participating factories in Cambodia. This takes H&M closer to one of its goals; to make it possible for employees and employers to negotiate and discuss about right and obligations collectively and resolve conflicts peacefully. The project was also recently launched in Ethiopia, with Myanmar standing next in line.

In addition, the global framework agreement with IndustriALL has shown to be instrumental in resolving conflicts. In Myanmar and Pakistan, two conflicts were recently solved; H&M and IndustriALL were involved throughout the process until agreements were reached between the workers and the management. Read more.

Interview about the Social Dialogue Program

Meet Jakia Khanam, Trainer at the H&M Social Dialogue Program
Jakia Khanam has worked as a trainer at H&M’s Social Dialogue Project in Dhaka, Bangladesh for two years. The trainings help improve the dialogue between the employees and the management at garment factories. An important part of Jakia’s daily work, is to train the participants on how to establish democratic elections of workers’ representatives and create effective workers participatory committees. Today, more than 120 factories in Bangladesh have received training.

Why are these trainings important?
My experience is that the trainings really help solving problems arising at the factories. It’s all about improving the dialogue and relationship between workers and management. At the trainings both workers and management learn about workplace rights and responsibilities as well as how to bring up and solve problems.

What kinds of issues are brought up by the workers’ representatives at the workers participatory committee meetings?
All kinds of workplace-related issues; everything from working conditions for pregnant women to worker promotions or management behavior.

In your opinion, what are the biggest learnings among the participants?
I believe the knowledge gained from the trainings on how to communicate between the workers and the management makes the participants much more confident in expressing their concerns. To give an example, I remember a pregnant woman who had made complaints in vain about overtime as well as the lack of appropriate ergonomics at the workplace. However, on completing her studies at the training center and after democratically elected workers’ representatives had been put in place, she raised the issue once more – but this time through a standardized procedure on how to bring up problems – and it was immediately addressed and resolved. And this is also the best thing with my job as a trainer; to be able to witness how the participants adopt the learnings from the trainings and apply them at their own workplace every day.

Do you think the trainings really make a difference?
Yes, I have seen many examples of how well-functioning workers participatory committees serve as an effective tool of communication in the everyday life at the textile factories. For example, they often lead to a greater involvement by the workers at the factories. At one factory, I know the workers’ absence decreased significantly after the establishment of workers participatory committees. The management also made improvements covering a wide range of other worker-related issues, from the installation of ceiling fans to providing medical facilities and arranging a prayer room.

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