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Wage theft allegedly uncovered in the supply chains of Nike, H&M and other major brands

A recent report from Clean Clothes Campaign uncovered widespread wage theft during the pandemic in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Indonesia, in the supply chains of H&M, Nike and Primark. These are three among many brands that made considerable profits over the last year but allegedly made business decisions that pushed workers, already on poverty wages, further into precarity. In addition to the financial implications, uncertainty around orders and pushing down purchases prices on the part of brands have worsened the working conditions of garment workers, with reports of increased production targets, unsafe working conditions, and harassment from management.

At the onset of the pandemic, brands and retailers reportedly refused to pay for an estimated US$ 40 billion worth of goods, including clothing already in production or even completed. Globally, garment workers are estimated to be owed billions in unpaid wages, bonuses, and severance pay since the pandemic began.

This report adds to the growing body of evidence and research (see, for example, "Fired, then Robbed", a report by the Worker Rights Consortium and "Wage Theft and Pandemic Profits" by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre) showing that despite making profits, garment brands allegedly failed to protect the workers in their supply chains and their purchasing practices actively contributed to their worsening conditions.

The companies named in the report responded to the allegations, with H&M and Nike reportedly saying that workers in their supply chains had all been compensated in accordance with local legal requirements on wages. Primark reportedly said it was taking the findings of the report seriously and would welcome receiving any evidence of wage problems at the supplier factories named in the report.

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