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H&M blamed for safety upgrades

As H&M rapidly expands its retail empire in Australia, the chain is being criticised for widespread labour rights violations and the ‘painfully slow’ progress of safety renovations at factories. An Asia Floor Wage Alliance report, based on 251 interviews with workers from 17 H&M supplier factories in Cambodia and India, found women were being routinely fired during their pregnancy.

Other common workplace abuses included illegal short-term contracts, low wages and forced overtime. Women in nine of 12 factories reported sexual harassment at work. According to the Alliance’s Anannya Bhattacharjee, H&M’s response to their report has been completely inadequate. H&M has told them that they are testing out new practices with pilot factories, but when the alliance asked them for the names of the factories they refused to tell them. Armed with the report, the group will urge leaders at the International Labour Conference, starting in Geneva, to establish a global standard for supply chains, including the recognition of a living wage as a human right. The fast fashion business, spearheaded by Zara, Topshop and H&M, has enjoyed phenomenal growth in recent years, swiftly offering the latest catwalk looks for a fraction of the price in their multi-level stores. H&M alone has opened nine stores in Australia in two years, with plans to double the number by the year’s end. But the global supply chain, heavily reliant on cheap labour, has seen workers suffer and their lives placed at risk.