Since over 1,100 garment workers died in the collapse of a Bangladesh factory last April, fashionistas have turned a wary eye to clothes made in Asia. A new report suggests they should be equally suspicious of clothes made for labels like Hugo Boss, H&M, and Zara in Eastern Europe, where low wages and unfair labor practices prevail.
"It is important that we put an end to the myths that paying more for clothes or sourcing from Europe guarantees decent working conditions," the Clean Clothes Campaign, an umbrella group for trade unions and advocacy groups, wrote in a new "Stitched Up" report published this week.
The report is based on interviews with garment workers in nine Eastern European countries, plus Turkey.
In many of the countries surveyed, employers are paying the legal minimum wage; however, the report says that those thresholds are too low. According to the report’s authors, Moldova and Ukraine have lower legal minimum wages than Indonesia, which requires that employers pay workers at least 82 Euro, or approximately $111, per month.
"It is impossible. We work in continuous flux and I only come back with pennies at the end of the month," one Romanian worker told the researchers.
The report also highlighted problems related to overtime, holidays, health insurance, and sexual harassment.
Several of the brands cited in the report, like Adidas, told the Guardian they had no knowledge of the factory sites and practices described by the interviewees: "At the Adidas Group, we investigate all complaints we receive and ... request the Clean Clothes Campaign to disclose the details about the factories covered by their investigation."
The report's primary recommendation: Increasing the legal minimum wage in the countries cited, with oversight provided by the European Union.