Turkey is known as Europe’s largest textile manufacturer. Many top global brands source garments from this country. Trade union leaders, however, criticize the poor working conditions in the industry.
Many of the major textile brands such as Esprit, H&M, Hugo Boss, S.Oliver, Adidas, Nike and Zara source their clothing from Turkey. These textile exports propelled the country to become the fourth largest clothing manufacturer in the world and number one in Europe. However, textile workers in the country often suffer from poor working conditions and low wages.
A recent study conducted by the NGO “Clean Clothes Campaign,” made up of trade unions and NGOs in 16 European countries, concluded that the wages paid by companies to garment workers are barely enough to survive.
The organization assessed the working conditions of some three million people employed in the industry in some eastern EU nations and Turkey. The official minimum wage in Turkey, for instance, is currently equivalent to around 441 euros per month.
‘Not enough to survive’
“The wages paid in Turkey’s garment industry are barely enough to survive. The workers earn 300 euros a month on average,” says Hasan Arslan of DISK, a trade union. Employers did not often pay minimum wages, Arslan claimed.
“More than 40 percent of workers are employed informally, which means employers do not offer them any social security benefits and are not obliged to comply with the minimum wage law,” he explained.
A recent study by the NGO Clean Clothes Campaign concluded that the wages paid to garment workers are barely enough to survive
This view, however, is contradicted by Senol Sankaya, head of the garment maker Yesim Textile. The company supplies textiles to many big global brands such as Nike, Hugo Boss, Zara and Calzedonia.
“Our workers not only receive the minimum wage, but they are paid the subsistence level – 35 percent more than the minimum wage,” Sankaya told DW, adding that the firm also paid greater attention to the health and safety of its employees.
That may be true at Yesim Textile. But trade union leader Aslan points out that Turkey ranks number one in terms of the number of industrial accidents in Europe and third spot globally. While Turkish law stipulates a 45-hour work week, workers in the country work on average around 67 hours, Arslan underlined, stressing that in general no compensation is paid for overtime work.