Who pays for our clothing from Lidl and Kik?

A study into the impact of buying practices of the discounters Lidl and Kik in Bangladesh and the precarisation of working conditions in German retailing

, by Clean Clothes Campaign

Globalisation and discounting are closely related. About 90 percent of our clothing is produced in Asia, Central America, Eastern Europe and several countries in Africa. The majority of retailing companies, such as also the discounters Lidl and KiK, buy from these countries. The “Alternative Movement for Resources and Freedom Society” (AMRF) examined the buying practices of discounters and the working conditions in six selected suppliers of Lidl and KiK in Bangladesh. The results – massive violations of labour and human rights – are presented in this brochure.

Through the concentration process in purchasing, the discounters have developed enormous power, through which they are in the position to hold down prices, reduce deadlines and pass on more and more of the responsibility to their suppliers. Their motto is: cheaper, quicker, more flexible; the risk must be borne by the suppliers. The producers in Bangladesh are powerless against these huge corporations. They, in turn, pass on this pressure to the garment workers who are ultimately the ones to suffer most as a result of this price war. The garment workers work without employment agreements for the lowest of wages. Overtime is either not paid or not paid correctly; the right to freedom of association is denied. Women are victims of discrimination – they are badly treated by the foremen. And they are paid less than men.

But it is not only the garment workers in Bangladesh, but also the shop assistants in Germany who experience the consequences of discounting. The discounters’ concept amounts to: cheap-cheap-cheap. It is not only the products and their presentation that should be cheap, but also the shop assistants themselves. The number of jobs for full-time employees is sinking fast – since 2003, 180,000 have been lost in Germany – part-time workers, on the lowest of wages, are now doing the work. Poverty, in spite of work, is the consequence and this affects women, in particular – 70 percent of employees in retailing are women.

* Read the report "Who pays for our clothing from Lidl and Kik?" (pdf, 87 p., July 2008)