The Responsibility of Canadian Clothing Brands

For years, Canadian brands have benefited from the global power imbalance between buyers and suppliers in the garment sector, and from the repression of worker rights in supplier factories in the global south. Canadian clothing brands have the power and resources to ensure their suppliers provide decent salaries and working conditions to workers.

In Bangladesh, the Rana Plaza disaster was a wake-up call for many Canadian consumers as they saw the terrible – and in this case – deadly conditions in which the clothes they wear had been produced. Responding to mounting pressure, garment companies have since then adopted different measures aimed at improving the factory safety of workers in the industry. But the COVID-19 pandemic exposed how vulnerable the vast majority still are to exploitation and abuse.

The Steelworkers Humanity Fund has been working closely with our partners in Bangladesh to document this situation, and for companies to face the contradictions between their words and their actions.

But in order to change the system that allows for those inequalities, action must be taken on the global level. This is why USW has also signed on to the #PayYourWorkers campaign, which advocates for the need for retailers and brands that sell apparel products to ensure that: a) workers that make those products receive the full wages throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and b) that workers who lost their jobs as a result of factory closures receive their full legal severance pay and any back wages owing.

Going forward, a second international campaign – WageForward – will be launched later this year calling on retailers and brands around the world to commit to paying a premium price on all orders to help ensure that workers receive a living wage.