Street style at Milan Fashion Week spring 2019

MILAN – A “saddened and concerned” Camera della Moda has responded to The New York Times article on “shadow workers” in Italy, which claims “thousands of low-paid home workers create luxury garments without contracts or insurance.”

”As the acclaimed writer, Edoardo Nesi acknowledges in his award-winning book, ‘Story of My People,’ published in 2013, the Italian supply chain has been under attack for a long time,” the group said in an official statement. “CNMI and its members are committed to working toward making the Italian supply chain resilient, fair and humane on every front. It is a complex process and it takes time; there are no easy solutions, but we are working together through our established Working Group on Social Sustainability and have already achieved substantive gains. We continue to implement solutions using our evidence-base and by working collaboratively.”

At a fashion show here, Carlo Capasa, president of the association, told WWD that this progress was overlooked by Times.

“For example, the NYT article uses statistics on homeworkers that date back to 1973,” read the statement. “The only recent statistics cited are from Tania Toffanin, the author of ‘Fabbriche Invisibili’ who estimated that ‘currently there are 2,000 to 4,000 irregular homeworkers in apparel production.’ Setting this in the context of a large industry, employing 620,000 people through 67,000 companies, shows us that the homeworkers featured are thankfully an anomaly.”

Capasa conceded that obviously everyone would wish there were no irregular workers at all, but said the Camera continues to work to this end.

“The latest statistic in fact shows that in Italy the number of irregular workers has dropped by 16 percent from 2010 to 2015. Out of all sectors that have sought to tackle irregular labor, the luxury fashion sector in Italy has posted the best results,” continued the statement, which also claimed the Times did not have an accurate picture of Italy’s workers’ rights.

“The piece states that ‘Italy does not have a national minimum wage.’ It suggests an equivalence between the Italian infrastructure for wages and production and that of low-wage economies when there is none. In fact the opposite is true. In Italy, the minimum wage and salaries are set through negotiation between trade unions and employers’ associations. This happens on a sector-by-sector basis. The agreements have the same legal status as a law (‘forza di legge erga omnes’), covering workers in all sectors. Setting the wages through negotiation represents enhanced social justice and democratic standards, compared to setting a minimum wage by law, as this method has been shown to deliver higher trade union density. Italy, therefore, has one of the highest levels of trade union coverage in the world at 34.4 percent. According to [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development] (OECD) statistics, when it comes to ‘trade union density’ the country ranks just below the Scandinavian countries and Belgium. It ranks far above Anglo-Saxon countries such as the U.K. and the U.S. where only 23.7 percent and 10.3 percent of workers, respectively, are
represented by trade unions. Furthermore, OECD data shows that Italy has a lower gender wage gap than most of the other comparative OECD countries.”

The Camera, and Capasa in particular, have been strong proponents of sustainability, working on regulations, innovative techniques and research. On Sunday night, capping Milan Fashion Week, the Green Carpet Fashion Awards, Italia will hold its second edition at the La Scala theater, rewarding best practices.

“It shows forceful dynamic progress as our supply chain continues to transform, feeding into globally agreed sustainability goals and creating a global mandate for action,” concluded the statement.

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