London - Although many shoppers associate products bearing a 'Made in Europe' label with better working standards, a new report from the Clean Clothes Campaign shines a light on the endemic poverty wages and poor working conditions in the garments and footwear industry throughout Central, Eastern and Southern-Eastern Europe.
Entitled 'Europe's Sweatshops', the report contains in-depth research into the situation of garment and shoe workers in Ukraine, Serbia and Hungary, as well as other Eastern European countries. Even though workers work long hours in poor conditions, they make extremely low wages. For example, many workers in the Ukraine only make 89 euros a month - which is five times less than the estimated living wages.
Fashion brands accused of taking advantage of low wage system in Eastern European
While many of the international fashion brands proudly use the 'Made in Europe' label, suggesting this means made in fair conditions, many of the 1.7 million garment workers living in the region live in poverty, face perilous work conditions, including forced overtime, but still struggle with significant debts.
These European sweatshops offer cheap, yet experienced workers, who only just earn the legal minimum monthly wages, which can vary from 89 euros in the Ukraine to 374 euros in Slovakia - which is far less than the actual living wages in these countries, states the report. An actual living wages in most of these countries for a family is four to five times higher than the current minimum wage - which has devastating impact on the garment and shoe workers lives.
“Sometimes, we simply have nothing to eat”, said a woman working in a garment factory in Ukraine. Another worker in Hungary said, “Our wages are just enough to pay for energy, water and heating bills”. These countries are said to be a 'low wage paradise' for global fashion brands, including Benetton, Esprit, Geox, Triumph and Vero Moda, who stand accused of profiting substantially from this system.
The Clean Clothes Campaign is calling on these brands to step up and begin paying a living wage and to work closer with suppliers to eradicate the illegal and inhumane working conditions highlighted in the report. FashionUnited has contacted the aforementioned brands for additional commentary on the report's findings.Photos:Clean Clothes Campaign