Response to ‘cry for help’ notes found in Penneys garments.

Clean Clothes Campaign responds to recent stories of ‘calls for help’ found in Penneys clothing.

Over the past week there have been reports of notes for help or messages stitched into clothing sold by Irish retailer Penneys purportedly from workers suffering inhumane conditions in the production of clothes for the retail giant.

Clean Clothes Campaign, in response to the stories says, “It is difficult to know whether these notes are genuine. However speculation on the origin of the messages should not distract from the known reality which is that the conditions described – in particular long hours, poverty pay and unsafe working conditions – are a fact of life for the majority of women and men producing clothes for high street brands including Primark.

“As our recent reports, Tailored Wages 2014 and Stitched Up – Eastern Europe Report clearly demonstrate inhumane conditions and wages that full far short of a living wage are endemic in the industry and can be found from clothing factories in Bangladesh to Bulgaria, Cambodia to Croatia.

“Penneys are not alone in sourcing from these factories and it is important that Penneys and all clothing brands take action and put an end to exploitative and inhumane purchasing practices and ensure the people who make their clothes are paid a living wage in decent working conditions.

“To pay a decent living wage would cost a brand like Primark just 50 cents more paid directly to a worker. As these stories have shown, cheap fashion at the expense of another persons dignity does not lie comfortably in the mind of consumers.”

Stitched Up Part II: Hugo Boss found to be intimidating Union members

Further proof that “Made in Europe” does not mean better rights for workers, especially if they work for Hugo Boss.


Read the full report here

Stitched Up – Poverty Wages for garment workers in Eastern Europe and Turkey

View individual  country reports here


Ukraine          Turkey

Bulgaria         Croatia,

Slovakia,       Georgia,

Macedonia    Moldova.

Bosnia & Herxogovina

Stitched Up – New Report Finds Poverty Wages for Garment Workers in Eastern Europe and Turkey

Poverty wages for garment workers in Eastern Europe and Turkey

Clean Clothes Campaign works with garment workers all over the world.  While many people are aware of the terrible working conditions and poverty wages garment workers in Asia receive, a new report –Stitched Up   interviewing hundreds of workers in 10 countries across eastern Europe the report finds that poverty wages and shocking working conditions are endemic in the global garment industry.

Far from being a problem confined to garment workers in Asia Stitched Up has found that the idea that “Made in Europe”means better conditions for workers is a myth.

Busting the myths

The report shows that there are no good guys.

It is important that we put an end to the myths that paying more for clothes or sourcing from Europe guarantees decent working conditions. Brands and retailers have to take clear steps and show a true commitment within their own supply chain in order to ensure all those who work for them, wherever they may live, are paid a living wage.

Campaigners and workers are calling on European fashion brands to make sure as a first immediate step that workers in the researched region receive a basic net wage of at least 60% of the national average wage. Buying prices must be calculated on this basis and allow for these wage hikes.

Brands need to act now and make sure that garment workers in their own supply chain – be it Asia or Europe- receive a living wage.


Read the full report here

Stitched Up – Poverty Wages for garment workers in Eastern Europe and Turkey

View individual  country reports here


Ukraine          Turkey

Bulgaria         Croatia,

Slovakia,       Georgia,

Macedonia    Moldova.

Bosnia & Herxogovina


Cambodian workers are freed after 5 months in prison for demanding better pay

After release 23 political prisoners today,On be haft of CLC and CCAWDU I would like to address his remark regarding to struggling to release 23 political detainees and minimum wage demand in Cambodia.

“In fact, we are really surprised and excited that the government and the court decided to release 23 political detainees. Nevertheless, the political detainees were accused without proper reasons or evidence. Their release was a result of significant pressure from a number of major brands sourcing in Cambodia after significant pressure from national and international organizations, including the ITUC, UNI, and CCC as well as foreign embassies. This victory is the first step. The trade union movement will continue to fight for a minimum wage of USD $160 for garment and textile workers and to ensure the protection of workers’ rights, decent work and dignity”. He also added that “ Thus, we would like to request you, friends and colleagues, to continue struggling to ensure brands to push their suppliers, as well as Cambodian government to increase minimum wage 160 US Dollar per month, drop all charges against union leaders, and stop the discrimination against and brutal repression of unions. This significant victory is good sign for workers as well as the Cambodian people as a whole and provides a platform from which we can build future success in our struggle”. More importantly, Kong Athit, Secretary General of CLC, says: “The workers of Cambodia welcome this fantastic and unexpected news. Finally there is justice for Pao Vorn and the other 22 activists, who were wrongfully detained for 140 days! But this is not the end of our struggle; the situation of unions and unionists in Cambodia remains very difficult and dangerous. We will make that very clear when Cambodia has to appear next week before the ILO’s Committee for the Application of Standards. So, we call upon our international allies to keep on supporting us in our struggle for a free and democratic Cambodia.

In solidarity,

CLC-C.CAWDU President,

3 years and counting, Thai activist Somyot remains in jail following charges of lese majesty



Thai labour rights activist Somyot Pruksakasemsuk was arrested on 30 April 2011 following publication of two articles in his magazine which the authorities claim offended the country’s ruling monarch.

Somyot has been accused of lèse majesté, the crime of insulting the king that carries up to 30 years of imprisonment. Lèse majesté has been widely used to silence labour and pro-democracy groups in Thailand.

After 21 months in arbitrary detention and being refused bail on ten separate applications, on 23 January 2013, Somyot was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment.
He was convicted by the Bangkok Criminal Court under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (the lèse majesté law), the crime of insulting the monarchy.

The Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland is calling upon the Thai authorities to honour its numerous commitments to respect
human rights and fundamental freedoms and to drop all charges against Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and all other human rights defenders detained under lèse majesté.

We also ask, more generally that all human rights defenders in Thailand are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of restrictions, including judicial harassment.


Rana Plaza: a survivors story

At just 26 years of age Shila’s life has been changed forever after being trapped in Rana Plaza. This April she joined campaigners across Europe to call on brands to Pay Up!

April 24th 2013 – The Ceiling Came Down

Shila Begum had been working in a factory within Rana Plaza for over two years when she reluctanly entered the building on April 24th last year. Within minutes of sitting behind her sewing machine the electricity went off and the generator kicked in.

RP survivor
Rana Plaza Survivor, Shila Begum


“I felt a shock and the floor gave way. People started running in chaos and the ceiling came down. I kept protecting my head, but I got stuck between the rubble. My hand got stuck and I thought I would die. People around died.”
Shila lay trapped in the rubble for a full day, like many of those around her she was screaming out for help. Finally at 5pm someone came to rescue them.

“They tried to pull the concrete plates that were on top of us. From boths side of the plates people were pulling me and they managed to get me out. [But] the weight of the concrete had pulled my uterus. At 11pm they removed my uterus completely.”



Shila, who had moved to Dhaka with her daughter in search of work after her husband died, is now unable to work due to the pain she suffers in her arm and the traumatic affects of the day.

“I need medical treatment and I have dreams for my child, so I need to earn money. The tuition fees might be low, but all the materials you need to buy, like shoes, books, uniform and the exam money comes on top of this.”

April 2014 – Speaking Out
In April 2014 Shila joined the General Secretary of the National Garment Workers Federation, Safia Parvin on a tour of Europe. In two weeks they went to the Netherlands, Italy, France and Germany and spoke with politicians, media and workers councils about her experience on that fateful day and her hopes for the future.

She called on all brands across Europe to immediately pay up, so that she and the thousands of survivors and family members can begin to rebuild their lives.

Rana Plaza One Year On: Brands drag their feet as compensation fund remains cripplingly low.


It is almost one year since Rana Plaza collapsed and 1,138 people lost their lives and over 2,000 more were injured.  Nothing can replace the loved ones lost, or erase the trauma both physical and mental suffered by the survivors, but they should not have to have the extra burden of not having their financial losses at least covered.

The Rana Plaza Arrangement is an unprecedented coordinated approach which will ensure all those who have suffered due to the collapse will receive payments to cover loss of income and medical costs.

US$40 million is needed in the Arrangement Trust fund by April 24th to ensure payments can be made. We are calling on all brands to pay up immediately.  Join us in calling on brands to act.

Which brands have contributed to the fund?

To date the Donor Trust Fund has received just 1/3 of the funds it needs to be able to ensure all the families of victims and the survivors receive the compensation they require.  Just half the companies who were connected to factories in the building have made contributions, they include:

Bonmarché, C&A Foundation, Camaïeu, El Corte Inglés, Inditex, KiK, Loblaw, LPP S.A., Mango, Mascot, Premier Clothing, Primark and Walmart and The Children’s Place through BRAC USA.

But nearly all of these brands have failed to make a significant enough contribution and we are calling on them to increase their donations immediately.

N Brown Group, VF Corporation and The Gap have also made contributions as brands who source from Bangladesh, but had not had a sourcing relationship with Rana Plaza.





After Benetton products were found buried in the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza building last year, the company denied all knowledge of the factory, until photos of their labels in the rubble were shown widely by the international media. For over six months they refused to take any responsibility for compensation until in September, they agreed to join a committee set up to design and implement compensation for workers. Two months later they walked away from the process and to date have refused to respond to campaigners demanding action.

Now, almost a year after the horrific Rana Plaza disaster Benetton has yet to contribute a cent to the Rana Plaza Trust Fund, which is collecting contributions to cover compensation for the injured workers and the families of those killed.



Find out who else is yet to pay here


Web Tailored Wages Image banner

Tailored Wages – new report investigates clothing brands’ work on living wages.

 Survey of 39 leading clothing brands on Irish high-street show they must do much more to ensure garment workers receive a wage they can live on.

Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland has launched ‘Tailored Wages’ an in depth study of what the leading 39 clothing brands on the Irish and European high-street are doing to ensure that the workers who produce the clothes they sell are paid a living wage.

 Based on a multi-brand survey “Tailored Wages” found that whilst half of those surveyed included wording in their codes of conduct saying that wages should be enough to meet workers’ basic needs; only four brands – Inditex (Zara), Marks & Spencers, Switcher and Tchibo – were able to show any clear steps towards implementing this – and even they have a long way to go before a living wage becomes a reality for the garment workers that produce for them.

Irish retailers lag behind

 Of the Irish retailers requested to participate, only Penneys were willing to share their projects and ongoing work with relation to workers’ wages. Neither Dunnes Stores nor O’Neills sportswear suppliers were able to supply even rudimentary information on codes of conduct or ethical trading policies.

Download the full report hereTailored Wages 2014

More action and less talk

“Although a living wage is a human right, shockingly none of Europe’s leading 50 companies is yet paying a living wage,” said Anna McMullen, the lead author on the report. “The research showed that while more brands are aware of the living wage and recognise that it is something to be included in their codes of conduct and in CSR brochures, disappointingly for most of the brands surveyed this was as far as they went. With millions of women and men worldwide dependent on the garment industry it is vital that these words are turned into definitive actions sooner rather than later.”

Co-author, Kate Nolan of Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland added “We were disappointed but not surprised to find that so many retailers are doing so little to ensure living wages are met in their supply chains. The fact remains that a living wage is a human right and retailers who continue to abdicate their responsibilities in this matter are infringing upon those workers’ human rights”

Struggle for living wages reaching critical point

In key garment producing countries such as Bangladesh and Cambodia the struggle for a living wage continues, as latest figures from the Asia Floor Wage Alliance show that living wage levels are, on average, three times the minimum wage a garment worker receives.

Cambodian workers, currently receive  USD 100 a month, just 25% of the Asia Floor Wage calculation for Cambodia, while even after the post Rana Plaza disaster and enormous global pressure to increase the minimum wage to meet workers needs, Bangladesh stands at just 21%.

“My expenses are increasing every day,” says Lili, a factory worker from Cambodia. “Even if we [the workers] eat all together in a small room and I collect the money from all others, we still can only spend a very small amount each because everybody always thinks ‘how are we going to be able to send money home to our families?”



The Clean Clothes Campaign carried out the research to monitor how far policies are being turned into practice by major clothing brands. The role of companies in ensuring a living wage is paid is vital as they have the ability to change prices and purchasing practices that would ensure wages allowed garment workers to live with dignity.

What should a living wage cover



Tailored Wages is part of a global campaign run by Clean Clothes Campaign and partners the Asia Floor Wage Alliance calling on all brands and governments to take action in order to ensure a living wage is paid.

Bail Denied for 21 Cambodian Workers

Bail has been denied to the 21 remaining detained workers

We are sorry to report that this morning bail was refused for 21 of the 23 Cambodian men who were detained during January’s wage struggles.

The bail hearings were held in a closed session this morning, February 11th, with none of the 21 men in attendance.  All 21 men remain in the CC3 jail north of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, which is notorious for its harsh conditions. Two of the original 23 detainees, were released on bail last Saturday.

We are extremely disappointed at this turn of events and will continue to fight for their immediate release alongside our partners in Cambodia and around the world.

Background Information

On the 24th of December 2013 an estimated 50,000 to 200,000 garment workers went on strike in Cambodia. Their main demand was a living minimum wage of $US160 per month. They were joined by a number of other unions and workers also demanding the same minimum wage.

Demonstrators have faced continuous heavy government repression for demanding this wage. This has included attacks by police, military police, plain clothes thugs, and private security who between them have used an assortment of weapons including tear gas, grenades, axe handles, sling shots, electric batons, AK-47 rifles, and metal poles. By January 4th, 4 workers had been killed, 39 seriously injured, and 23 indefinitely detained in the remote and harsh CC3 prison.

Of those arrested 20 of them were garment workers, and 3 were prominent human rights defenders – Theng Savoeun, Vorn Pao, and Chan Puthisak.

Another 2 workers have since died from injuries sustained at these demonstrations.


You can still show your support.

Sign the Petition in support of the remaining detained workers.

The below email will be sent for the attention of the Cambodian Ambassedor stationed at the Cambodian Embassy in the UK.


[emailpetition id=”6″]

Global outcry against Cambodian violence towards workers.

Groups call on global clothing brands to use their influence to achieve an end to repression against workers involved in wage protests and the resumption of good-faith wage negotiations.

Labour rights groups condemn violence against garment workers in Cambodia

Labour rights groups and trade unions across the world are expressing outrage at the brutal violence and repression in Cambodia following demonstrations by garment and footwear workers calling for a raise in the minimum wage.

The groups, including Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum, Worker Rights Consortium, Maquila Solidarity Network, United Students Against Sweatshops, International Union League for Brand Responsibility, Workers United, SEIU, Framtiden i våre hender, and CNV Internationaal, The Netherlands, are calling on global clothing brands to take immediate action and contact the Cambodian government demanding:

  • Immediate end to all violence and intimidation against workers and their representatives;
  • Release of all those who have been detained for participation in the struggles;
  • Respect for freedom of association and the workers’ right to strike;
  • Refraining from charging the workers and trade union leaders who have participated in the strike;
  • Resumption of good-faith minimum wage negotiations; and
  • Ensuring all those responsible for the violence against the strikers are held to account.

Violence against garment workers began after Cambodian unions called a national strike on December 24, 2013. Workers were demanding an increase in the minimum wage to USD 160 per month. As protests continued, the police and military responded with violence on January 2 and 3, killing at least 4 people and injuring almost 40.

Seven brands sent an open letter to the Government of Cambodia on January 7 expressing their concerns over the recent violence. It is commendable that these brands are willing to speak up and appalling that so many others have remained silent in the face of such blatant human rights violations in their sector. The letter did not go far enough however, in denouncing the reprehensible conduct of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, which has condoned the government’s use of deadly force against striking workers. As poverty wages are at the root of the demonstrations, global clothing brands must also recognise the role they play and take immediate action including:

  • Publicly stating that any future apparel and footwear orders in Cambodia depend on:
    • an immediate end to the violence against workers;
    • the release of all those detained in the wage protests and the dropping of all charges;
    • government re-establishing the right to strike and assemble;
  • Paying fair prices to factories, sufficient to enable employers to pay a decent wage;
  • Supporting the workers’ call for a substantial increase in the minimum wage (to USD 160); and
  • Committing to maintaining buying volumes from Cambodia if wages were to rise.

“Whilst our primary concern is the safety and well-being of those workers who have been detained, we are also calling on brands to look at the long-term implications of their purchasing practices.” said Jeroen Merk of the Clean Clothes Campaign. “Until brands recognise that these practices contribute to the poverty wages received by workers in Cambodia, and in turn the demonstrations we are witnessing, then no brand sourcing from Cambodia can claim to be acting fairly or decently.”

Cambodia’s garment industry employs over 500,000 people, is responsible for around 95% of Cambodia’s export industry and is worth €3.38 billion a year. The minimum wage falls a long way short of a living wage, and the poverty wages workers receive contribute to shocking levels of malnutrition amongst the mainly young female workforce.

“These latest horrific developments demonstrate why authorities can no longer afford to ignore the social problems and poor living conditions facing workers in Cambodia today,” said Tola Meoun, Head of Labor Programmes for the Cambodian NGO Community Legal Education Centre.

On Friday, January 10th, actions will take place at embassies and other locations around the world in a day of solidarity with Cambodian workers. As part of this day of action campaigners will call on the government of Cambodia to release those detained in the protests and resume minimum wage negotiations.


23 people have been detained. Until January 8, their whereabouts was unknown. Confirmation was received that they were being held in CC3 Prison, an isolated prison located two hours from Kampong Cham town northeast of the capital, Phnom Penh. The next bail hearing for the 23 detained is scheduled for next Tuesday, 11 February.

Sign the Petition in Support of these detained workers. The below email will be sent for the attention of the Cambodian Ambassedor stationed at the Cambodian Embassy in the UK.

[emailpetition id=”6″]


About 170 companies have filed cases against trade unions. About 180 workers in total have been dismissed across about 20 factories. Around 30 workers have been reinstated since then.