H&M has taken another step toward improving garment worker rights in the factories where it buys its products.
It’s been a year since the Swedish retailer first signed a Global Framework Agreement (GFA) with unions IndustriAll and IF Metall and last week the parties came together to convert the contract into a permanent arrangement. The move will allow the trio to continue improving worker and employer dialog at H&M’s supplier factories—something that’s necessary to make lasting progress in all areas, including a fair living wage.
So far, the GFA has led to the creation of national monitoring committees in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar and Turkey, which support negotiations between employers’ and workers’ organizations to help solve conflicts peacefully and in good faith at the factory level.
For instance, a dispute at a textile factory in Myanmar earlier this year, caused by a lack of communication and resulting in strikes and dismissals, was solved following negotiations initiated and organized by IndustriAll and H&M. That cooperation led to all affected employees getting their jobs back and the formation of a factory-level union.
“The support to factory level unions within the supply chain of H&M has been one key objective of the GFA between IndustriAll Global Union and H&M,” stated Christina Hajagos-Clausen, textile and garment industry director at IndustriAll. “It should be noted that these newly formed trade unions and their management counterparts need to have additional capacity building in order to achieve well-functioning industrial relations. From our experience this year, these newly formed labor/management relations are fragile.”
Cambodia is one country where H&M sources products that has fallen short of improving garment worker rights. A recent report by the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL) and the Norwegian NGO Future in Our Hands found that one supplier was paying its workers less than minimum wage, while others had inadequate sick leave practices and toilet break restrictions in place.