Discussing Fair Wages in China

Representatives of major brands, the Chinese Government, and the Fair Labor Association (FLA) gathered in Beijing on January 8 to discuss a new book examining wage trends at the global level. The book, Fair Wages – Strengthening Corporate Social Responsibility, sheds light on wage inequalities and unfairness facing workers around the world. It was authored by Dr. Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead, professor of corporate social responsibility at Sciences Po in Paris, who is responsible for wage practices at the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The book launch was chaired by Mr. Zhang Junfeng, Deputy Director of the Institute of International Labor and Social Security in Beijing, and brought in the perspectives of brands, suppliers, and Chinese trade unions. H&M, an FLA Participating Company, and Chengfeng, an FLA Participating Supplier, spoke about the need to support fair wages. Participants called for transparency from factories and buyers on wage expectations and costs, support from the local government, and the need to set long-term objectives in wage policies. Auret van Heerden, President and CEO of the FLA, opened the event by introducing three key concepts: responsibility, sustainability and fair wages for a fair society. These ideas were echoed throughout the day as participants discussed the way forward toward more equitable wages in factories in China.

Professor Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead highlighted some key issues, which sparked an engaging discussion between the speakers and the audience:

  • The reasons behind, and the trend of, growing wage disparity, with the gap between the rich and the poor becoming only more polarized in most economies.
  • The growing debate around the legal minimum wage – what does it mean as compared to living wage, and what is the appropriate level for minimum wage?
  • Pay systems, and the benefits of mixed payment systems rather than the typical piece-rate system employed in most factories worldwide.
  • Insufficient overtime payment and lack of transparency in reporting hours worked.

Visit www.fair-wage.org for more information, and learn more about the Fair Wage Approach.


Enhancing Social Protection in the Apparel & Footwear Industry in Central America

Lopez-Perez & Salazar

FLA's Jorge Perez-Lopez & Omar Salazar Alvarado of ASEPROLA

On March 17, FLA hosted a seminar and discussion in Washington, D.C., on social protection for apparel and footwear workers, with emphasis on Central America.  Omar Salazar Alvarado, Executive Director of the Asociación de Servicios de Promoción Laboral (ASEPROLA), presented the paper Enhancing Social Protection in the Apparel and Footwear Industry in Central America, which was commissioned by the MFA Forum as part of its Sustainable Apparel and Footwear Initiative. The target countries in the study were Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua – which have seen an estimated 20% decrease in employment in this sector over the past three years caused by the financial crisis in the United States and an increased shift of apparel and footwear production to Asian countries.

The ASEPROLA report presents a series of proposals to strengthen worker protections in the region, focusing on the role of the government, workers and social justice organizations in this effort.  It also provides a general context of the region in terms of employment structure, public policy and laws protecting workers’ rights. Details on wage structures in each of these countries – along with options for worker compensation – can be found in the report as well.  Read the report in English or Spanish.

ASEPROLA Panelists

Veronica Alaimo, Homero Fuentes, Ana Aslan, Jennifer Bair

Mr. Salazar opened with an overview of the report, followed by a panel discussion moderated by FLA’s Executive Director Jorge Perez-Lopez.  Panelists included:

  • Jennifer Bair, Department of Sociology, University of Colorado
  • Ana Aslan, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor
  • Homero Fuentes, COVERCO, Guatemala
  • Veronica Alaimo, Inter-American Development Bank

View Mr. Salazar’s PowerPoint overview of key findings – which he presented at the event – in English or Spanish.