Earlier this week, Swedish retailer H&M agreed to a pact to improve working conditions in Bangladesh factories. Now it's moving the conversation back to a related problem it's tackled in the past .
CEO Karl-Johan Persson told the Financial Times in an interview published Wednesday that the Bangadeshi government should increase the minimum wage. The country's current rate of just $38 per month places it among the lowest minimum wages in the world.
“I want the salaries to be revised yearly, as in most other countries,” Persson said. “So we’re definitely willing to pay more but we have to find a good, sustainable way for the workers and for the country as well.”
In the weeks since a factory building collapsed and killed more than 1,100 lives, many retailers faced intense international pressure to take action to improve working conditions. Such action is not new for H&M. The Swedish retailer called Bangladesh's 2010 decision to double its minimum wage -- after violent protests -- a “step in the right direction.” The company also asked the government to institute automatic annual wage reviews so the minimum wage could keep up with the cost of living, according to the company’s website.
The Bangladesh government announced earlier this week its plan to increase wages for the first time since that 2010 decision, amid yet another wave of aggressive protests. Factory owners say they are unable to afford higher wages due to Western consumers who have grown accustomed to cheap clothing, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Indeed, a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll discovered that 55 percent of shoppers view prices as very important when they decide where to shop. Only 30 percent said that finding clothing manufactured under safe conditions was important.
On Monday, H&M became one of the first major retailers to agreeing to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. By committing to the five-year agreement, H&M agreed to pay as much as $500,000 per year toward factory safety improvement and lead independent safety checks of facilities. Inditex SA, the owner of the Zara chain, Tesco and Benetton are among the other retailers who have committed to the accord.
Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, announced Tuesday that it will develop its own safety program in Bangladesh, which will include “in-depth safety inspections,” according to a press release.