Living Wage Symposium
On 8 November, we launched the next phase of our work to ensure a Living Wage for the millions of women working in the garment industry by convening a symposium to bring together those with the same aim. We were joined by incredible change-makers and enjoyed discussions from the legal, investment, corporate and NGO sectors as well as academics, and policy makers including Jessica Simor QC, ASOS, Continental Clothing, BMO Global Asset management, ASN Bank, Kempen, ACT, Fair Wear and Clean Clothes Campaign amongst others.
We began the day hearing from our keynote speaker, the inspirational Anannya Bhaattacharjee, founder and President of the Garment and Allied workers union in Northern India. Anannya encouraged the room to push forward ‘the theme of solutions’ on the urgent issue of a living wage. She also took the opportunity to remind us of the abuse that happens throughout supply chains that is facilitated by the lack of a living wage and the fact that many consumers are unaware of the true cost of garments. The need for increased transparency was a key theme throughout the day and came up again and again across all of our panels.
“Fashion brands are the drivers of the supply chain” – Anannya Bhaattacharjee
Jessica Simor QC, the legal driving force behind our second report, used her opening speech as an opportunity to remind us that the industry is an uneven playing field. This environment is one that works against brands that want to do better in their supply chains and began the conversation of what structural changes need to be made to allow retailers, investors and individuals to introduce a living wage within their supply chains without losing their competitive edge.
“The poorer you are the more vulnerable you are and the more vulnerable you are the more exploited you are …. so a living wage makes a real difference from the ground up” – Adil Rehman
Our different panels spoke from positions of experience across many difference fields and with a varied wealth of knowledge. However, many of our speakers spoke about how important legislation that the report outlines will be in achieving the living wage, how transparency for the consumer but also for regulatory boards is vital, and discussed different methodologies on how to implement legislation with ‘teeth’.
It is clear that this is a complex issue, but we must press ahead to improve the lives of garment workers who struggle to provide for themselves and their families. There will be obstacles and there will be resistance, but as our Ambassador Melanie Hall closed with:
“Everyone has a part to play, everyone in this room today is a consumer”
A huge thank you to all of our speakers and to JJ Charitable Trust and Pinsent Mason for their support in making this symposium happen.