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H&M Germany:  Wages that are fair and  support livelihoods, This was the title under which H&M published its “Program for improving relations between workers and management “. Working under  “improved working conditions” is right on top of our agenda. Everyone from the boss to the simple salesperson use the informal “Du” when addressing each other. The tone is casual in the clothing stores of Hennes & Mauritz and the atmosphere there is also meant to be like that. The smartly dressed H&M director for sustainability Helena Helmersson declares that they are trying “to encourage  the workers in low wage countries  to get organized and to demand fairer wages. Much as we do in Europe when we feel unfairly treated”.

 Veronika Marguard 27, who is a salesperson at H&M in Hamburg doesn‘t know whether she should laugh or cry as she sees this declaration. At H&M there is hardly any works council member who has not been massively harassed, punished with an Internet ban and dismissed without notice for trying to achieve „better working conditions“. With her standby contract she makes hardly 800€ per month in spite of being continuously on standby. She can’t do any other job on the side as there is always the threat of a call up to come to work. Since that is often just for 3 or 4 hours and the commuting to and from would be expensive she has rented a room in the inner city. The rent has just gone up to 560€. The worst aspect of it is that there is no solidarity among the colleagues. Everyone is dependent on getting more hours of work than the guaranteed 10 hours. So often quite a few try to get hold of hours at the expense of others. The work itself is usually fun.  But she won’t be able to keep this up for long.  In spite of being unusually frugal she still can’t get by. But somewhere down the line she would also want to start a family and have children.