Who Foots the Bill
Decent work for homeworkers in the leather footwear industry.
Homeworkers in the leather footwear industry experience extremely poor working conditions. As companies engage in a ‘race to the bottom’ to reduce costs, homeworkers face health problems, have no access to social security and not enough money to support their families. Homeworkers are demanding their rights under the International Labour Organisation Convention on Home Work.
Women homeworkers play a key role in global supply chains
Most shoe retailers now outsource manufacturing to smaller companies, who in turn may give out work to workshops and homeworkers. This supply chain often stretches across several countries.
They work in poor conditions producing goods with a high retail value
As retailers look for ever-lower product costs and quicker response times, pressure is passed down the chain, meaning lower wages and more insecurity for workers. Homeworkers often work on a piece rate which can mean working an hourly rate well below a living wage and working long hours to make ends meet.
When companies give work to homeworkers, they save money because they don’t pay the homeworkers’ overheads, such as rent, heating and lighting. Companies also do not always pay social insurance costs, meaning homeworkers have no sick pay, maternity leave or pensions.
Homeworkers lack voice and recognition
Home-based work is often not recognised as ‘real work’ and homeworkers are often unprotected by country laws. Where laws exist, they are often poorly implemented, if at all. There is rarely any organisation among homeworkers by the formal unions in the sector.
This invisibility makes it extremely difficult for women homeworkers to claim their rights.
- Encourage retailers to examine supply chains to ensure workers get a fair deal.
- If they are not already members, write urging them to join the Ethical Trading Initiative.
- Get a group of friends together to write letters asking your favourite footwear store about their supply chains. Send receipts if you can so they know you are customers.
- Publish articles in your newsletter, journals, webpage or e-bulletins.
- Invite people from Homeworkers Worldwide to speak at forums and events.