Swedish retailer H&M; said on Monday that it could eventually raise its prices to help pay the factory workers who make its products better wages, according to Agence France Presse. The company’s head of sustainability told the paper that such an option “might be a possibility” although won’t come in the near future.
In the meantime, however, she said the company would use “its size and influence with suppliers” to increase wages and get the workers better training, the paper noted. It will also push governments to raise their minimum wages.
Viveka Risberg, with the organization Swedwatch that monitors multinational corporations in the country, noted that H&M;’s statement is “the first time ever” a retailer had said it could raise prices.
Garment factory workers have been protesting in large numbers for higher wages in Bangladesh and Cambodia, and the strikes have turned violent as protesters clash with police. Bangladesh recently raised its minimum wage to 5,300 takas a month, or $66, a 77 percent increase over its previous wage of $38. Yet it fell far short of what workers had been demanding and still leaves then the worst paid in the world.
But Bangladesh is far from alone in failing to guarantee that its workers make enough to live on. Of the top 21 countries that export garments to the United States, workers in 15 make just a third of what would amount to a living wage. Wages have also been declining in many of these countries.
H&M; was also one of the first retailers to sign on to a legally binding agreement to upgrade Bangladesh’s garment factories after a fatal collapse that killed more than 1,100 in April. While the majority of the country’s factories are vulnerable to collapse, if companies decided to raise their prices to pay for the upgrades, it would cost consumers just 10 cents more per garment.