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Canadian Tire Corp. has failed to ensure that garment workers in the factories of its South Asian suppliers receive a living wage, unions allege in a complaint filed with a federal business watchdog.
The Canadian Labor Congress and the United Steelworkers Union filed the complaint Tuesday with the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, calling on the office to investigate allegations of human rights violations in the retailer’s supply chain.
The complaint alleges that workers in Bangladeshi garment factories supplying Canadian Tire subsidiary Mark’s with clothing sold under brand names such as Wind River, Denver Hayes, Dakota and Helly Hansen are being paid “poverty-level wages”.
“The failure of Mark’s to guarantee living wages to workers in its supply chain is a violation of human rights,” the complaint to Ombudsman Sheri Meyerhoffer said.
Canadian Tire said it is working to ensure its suppliers comply with all local laws, including compensation.
“As part of our compliance assurance activities, (Canadian Tire) regularly monitors wage rates and works with reputable third parties to audit factories that produce our own brand products,” the company said in an emailed statement. 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, says Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity.
Workers live in overcrowded houses and struggle to buy food despite working six days a week and 12 hours a day, she said.
“Many face a constant struggle to feed themselves and their families and be one step away from abject poverty,” Akter said at a news conference.
The average garment worker earns about $173 a month — an amount that would have to rise four or five times to pay workers a living wage, she said.
Marty Warren, Canada’s national director of the United Steelworkers Union, said Canadian Tire’s suppliers violate international human rights standards.
“The women and men who work in garment factories in Bangladesh, such as those of Mark’s and Canadian Tire, live in poverty,” he said at a news conference.
“Canadian Tire has influence and resources to ensure that rights are respected,” said Warren. “They need to be pushed to fulfill their responsibility.”
The complaint asks that the federal business watchdog “assess the extent of their human rights violations in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment industry” and that the company “fails to ensure that workers in their supply chain are paid a living wage”.
The labor groups are asking the watchdog to recommend that Canadian Tire publicly commit to ensuring that a living wage is paid to all workers in the global apparel supply chain.
Bangladesh is one of the world’s largest garment exporters.
Several Canadian clothing retailers, including Lululemon Athletica Inc. and Loblaw Companies. The clothing brand Joe Fresh from Ltd. has brought clothes 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 in Bangladesh that collapsed killing more than 200 people made Joe Fresh branded clothing.
At the time, Loblaw said it has supplier standards that ensure products are manufactured “in a socially responsible manner.”