A substantive report into wages in the global fashion industry was launched at The Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2017, by fashion campaigner Livia Firth, human rights barrister Jessica Simor QC and journalist Lucy Siegle – all members of women’s rights organisation The Circle. Fashion Focus: the fundamental right to a living wage examines the highly remunerative Fast Fashion sector through a legal lens. It concludes that a living wage is a fundamental human right, which all States are obliged to guarantee.
This is the first such report from The Circle, founded by Annie Lennox, the acclaimed singer, songwriter, human rights and social justice campaigner who says, ‘I’m enormously proud that The Circle has produced this seminal report on the fundamental right of a Living Wage in the global fashion supply chain. It’s a strong piece of work that reflects the core purpose and mission of The Circle: women using their skills, expertise, networks and passion to help support and transform the lives of women and girls around the world.’
Masterminded by Jessica Simor QC, one of the UK’s leading specialists in human rights and public law, the report takes evidence from 14 major garment ‘hot spots’ across the across the globe, where the bulk of our fashion is produced. A network of legal professionals based in those countries each provide an up to date snapshot of wages and working conditions. Using this evidence, and working with industry experts such as The Clean Clothes Campaign and The Fair Wage Network, Simor and team join the dots between international law, the fashion industry and human rights.
The report makes the legal case for Living Wage as a human right. It shows that living wages – remuneration sufficient to support the basic needs of a family and a decent life – have been recognized in international law for more than a century. Yet the fast fashion sector remains synonymous with poverty wages, directly affecting the 75 million garment workers in the supply chain, 85% of whom are women.
Livia Firth (Creative Director of Eco-Age, founder of the Green Carpet Challenge and The Circle founding member) says: “It is today widely accepted that neither cheap clothes, not vast corporate profits can justify the human suffering which is today involved in fast fashion supply chains. I consider this ground breaking report as the beginning of a new era for the fashion industry where we will be able to treat garment workers as equals”.
Jessica Simor, QC says, ‘At the moment retailers and brands actively promote the fact that they pay minimum wage. But what we demonstrate in this report is that this is no answer. In none of the countries surveyed does the minimum wage come anywhere close to the living wage on any scale.’
‘Compliance with the UN Guiding Principles, by reference to the fundamental right to a living wage and principles of international labour law established nearly a century ago can put an end to the race to the bottom, stopping states from selling their people’s labour at less than the price of a decent life’.
Journalist and fashion activist, Lucy Siegle says, ‘Working with lawyers of this calibre gives us the opportunity to broaden fashion advocacy. We urgently need to new architecture for the global garment industry and we hope that this represents a substantial step forward on a living wage’.
The Circle has launched a ‘donate’ page on www.thecircle.ngo/project/a-living-wage to help fund the next phase of this important work.