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French campaigners tackle clothing brands on foreign suppliers’ wages

Bangladeshi textile workers demand compensation for victims of the Rana Plaza disaster on a May Day march in Dhaka Reuters/Andrew Biraj

A French labour-rights alliance has launched a campaign to force top clothing brands to ensure their suppliers are paying their workers a fair wage. French brands Louis Vuitton, Pimkie, Promod, Celio, Décathlon and Carrefour are among their targets.

The Ethique sur l'étiquette (Ethics on the label) coalition of NGOs, consumer groups and trade unions is the French branch of the international Clean Clothes Campaign, and aims to tell the public which companies do guarantee fair wages and which do not.

Clothing brands, like Louis Vuitton and Adidas, have come under scrutiny for poor wages and dangerous working conditions in garment factories where their products are made in the developing world.

Ethique sur l'étiquette says that no company has met acceptable rights standards, even though some have made progress.

One of those is Primark, an Irish retailer present in France, which came under the spotlight when over 1,100 people died in a factory making its clothes in Bangladesh last year.

The media exposure of the Rana Plaza disaster forced Primark to change its ways, Ethique sur l'étiquette spokesperson Nayla Ajaltouni, told RFI.

The campaign has launched the hashtag #soldées to encourage social network users to become involved in solidarity with low-paid workers in poorer countries.

The Clean Clothes Campaign has sent a questionnaire to 50 multinationals - Vuitton, Pimkie, Promod, Celio, Décathlon and Carrefour in France - on labour conditions in their suppliers’ factories but says that none have given a “meaningful” response.

Trade unionists from China and Cambodia were present at the campaign’s launch in Paris on Wednesday.