Three Dutch high street chains under fire over textile workers’ wages

Aid minister Lilianne Ploumen has attacked three Dutch clothing companies for failing to sign an international agreement to ensure textile workers in Bangladesh are paid properly and work in safe conditions.

Ploumen says in Monday’s AD that Coolcat, Wibra and Prénatal are continuing to allow their products to be made in factories where workers are exploited and where working conditions are poor.

‘These companies have a choice. Either they sign or they lose credibility among their customers,’ the minister said. ‘At the moment they are on the wrong side of the line.’

The need to make a profit can never be an excuse not to take responsibility for the workers who manufacture their clothes, Ploumen is quoted as saying. ‘Companies like Zeeman, H&M, C&A, Hema and V&D are doing their best. And their clothes are not more expensive, so it can be done.’

Ploumen’s comments come as governments, companies and unions take part in a conference in Berlin to try to make sure workers worldwide earn a living wage. The textile industry is a key part of this.

Coolcat owner Roland Kahn told the Volkskrant on Monday he considered the minister’s action in naming ‘small firms’ like his own as ‘scandalous’.

Kahn said it is still not at all clear what the agreement will do to help reform the Bangladeshi clothing industry. His company’s clothes come largely from ‘high value’ countries and that only a limited amount is made in Bangladesh. ‘I have absolutely no influence over the salaries of textile workers there,’ he told the Volkskrant.

Wibra and Prénatal have not yet commented.

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