Apparel Sourcing Intelligence - Worldwide

Why don’t Iranians pay salaries?

Every few months, we have a story about strikes in Iran over unpaid workers. It happened in September. At Farnakh, we reported on it in 2007 – but missed it in 2005 and 2006.

Indeed, the United Nations’ International Labour Office set up a special inquiry in 2007 in which Iranian laws were judged inadequate and factory inspection systems mediocre. It seems to be more than the common sad story in very poor countries, where more often than not a very poorly capitalised factory messes up an order, doesn’t get paid and then can’t afford to pay its staff – because all the factory’s other creditors are far better placed than the workers to make sure they get their money.

The current Iranian scandal is all about a once high-profile charity fund, which now seems to be getting systematically asset-stripped by its trustees. But it does follow on from a series of reports – including this story in February 2007 – of widespread mismanagement throughout the industry.

The odd thing though is that Iran’s close to hermetically sealed. It exports few clothes – so factories are making for brands and retailers they should know well, and for shoppers they understand perfectly. Those factories seem to accept standards of poor management they’d not stand a chance of getting away with if they had to deal with customers as pernicketty as Gap or Nike. Or were subject to the rules of a properly accountable government.

Many in the anti-globalisation movement like to pretend it’s the demands of evil Western buyers who create poor working conditions. In fact, whether it’s state owned textile mills in Egypt , or the long saga of corruption that’s destroyed Nigeria’s industry, it’s always the businesses least exposed to the demands of publicly accountable Western brands and retailers where the worst conditions get found.