European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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27 June 2014

Working conditions in the Eastern Europe textile sector not better than in Asia

In early June, the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) demonstrated in a report that working and pay conditions in the textile industry from four countries belonging to the European Union, and six other on its boarders, are similar to those experienced by their colleagues in Asia.

Researchers found that legal minimum wage levels in Bulgaria, Ukraine and Macedonia were just 14% of what is needed as a living wage. Most workers in the sector have no choice but to take second jobs and rely on excessive overtime just to make ends meet.

A female worker, who has worked for 18 years in a factory that today produces for the Spanish brand Zara, told the CCC that she earns 179 Euros per month, which includes an average of 5 hours of overtime every day. This wage does not even cover her food expenses for the family.

Women working for Hugo Boss sub-contractors in Croatia and Turkey unveiled that they were sexually harassed and victims of intimidation and shouting. At the Turkish atelier, they claimed that they had to sign a contract that included a clause to not get pregnant for the next five years.

The number of formal or unformal workers affected in the 10 investigated countries is estimated by CCC at three millions, mostly women.

The CCC researchers have interviewed some 300 garments workers from 39 factories producing clothes for brands including H&M, Adidas, Levi's, Benetton, Dolce & Gabbana.

The Clean Clothes Campaign is an alliance of organisations in 16 European countries, including trade unions, dedicated to improving working conditions in the global garment industries.

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