Labor groups allege workers at Canadian Tire supplier factories paid poverty wages

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Canadian Tire Corp. failed to ensure garment workers at its South Asian supplier factories received a living wage, labor groups allege in a complaint filed with a federal watchdog.

The Canadian Labor Congress and the United Steelworkers Union filed a complaint with the Canadian Ombudsman for Responsible Business on Tuesday, asking the office to investigate allegations of human rights abuses in the chain. retailer supply.

The complaint alleges that Bangladeshi garment factory workers who supply Canadian Tire subsidiary Mark’s with clothing sold under brands including Wind River, Denver Hayes, Dakota and Helly Hansen are paid “poverty wages”.

“Mark’s failure to ensure that its supply chain workers are paid a living wage is a violation of human rights,” said the complaint to ombudsman Sheri Meyerhoffer.

Canadian Tire said it works to ensure its suppliers follow all local laws, including compensation.

“As part of our activities to ensure compliance, (Canadian Tire) regularly monitors wage rates and works with reputable third parties to audit the factories that manufacture our branded products,” the company said in a statement sent by email on Tuesday.

While the company’s suppliers may pay slightly more than the legal minimum wage in Bangladesh, garment workers still earn less than $1 an hour on average, said Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity.

The workers live in overcrowded accommodation and struggle to buy food despite working up to six days a week and 12 hours a day, she said.

“Many face a constant struggle to feed themselves and their families and live one step away from abject poverty,” Akter told a news conference.

The average garment worker earns around $173 a month — an amount that would have to be multiplied by four or five to pay workers a living wage, she said.

Marty Warren, Canadian national director of the United Steelworkers Union, said Canadian Tire suppliers violate international human rights standards.

“Women and men employed in garment factories in Bangladesh like those used by Mark’s and Canadian Tire live in poverty,” he told a news conference.

“Canadian Tire has influence and resources to ensure rights are upheld,” Warren said. “They need to be pushed to take responsibility.”

The complaint calls for the federal corporate watchdog to “determine the extent of their human rights abuses in Bangladesh’s garment industry” and the company’s “failure to ensure that workers in their supply chain are paid a living wage”.

Labor groups are calling on the watchdog to recommend that Canadian Tire publicly commit to ensuring a living wage is paid to all workers in its global apparel supply chain.

Bangladesh is one of the largest garment exporters in the world.

Several Canadian clothing retailers, including Lululemon Athletica Inc. and Loblaw Companies. Clothing brand Joe Fresh from Ltd sourced clothing from the South Asian country.

Lululemon launched an investigation in 2019 after reports emerged of worker abuse at a factory in Bangladesh that supplied the athleisure retailer.

In 2013, a factory that collapsed in Bangladesh, killing more than 200 people, was making Joe Fresh brand clothing.

Loblaw said at the time that it had supplier standards, which ensure products are made “in a socially responsible manner.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 22, 2022.

Companies in this story: (TSX: CTC.A, TSX: CTC)

Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press

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