Dannii in M&S 'sweatshops' storm

11 December 2010 - 11:14pm
Press release
  • NEWS PEG: 7.30-9.30 pm GMT, Sunday, 12 December 2010 UK TV channel 3 (ITV1) shows The X Factor final
  • EMBARGO: 07.00 am GMT, Sunday, 12 December 2010
  • X-rated factories pay workers £2.48 a day

    Dannii Minogue, a television judge in tonight's final of the UK talent show The X Factor – who stars in the new Marks & Spencer TV ad – is involved in a row over Indian workers paid as little as £2.48 (179 rupees) a day to make the retailer's clothes.

    Minogue appears in the dance-themed commercial bearing the slogan "Don't put a foot wrong this Christmas", along with models Twiggy and Lisa Snowdon, singer VV Brown, comedian Peter Kay and football pundit Jamie Redknapp.

    But while the ad ends with the tagline "Quality worth every penny", a new report claims workers producing M&S clothes at two factories near the Indian capital Delhi, earn wages as low as 31p (22 rupees) an hour, £2.48 (179 rupees) a day.

    Research for the campaign group Labour Behind the Label and anti-poverty charity War on Want say helpers and thread cutters in the city of Gurgaon received only £60 (4,349 rupees) a month – below half a living wage of £126 (9,100 rupees) a month. Even skilled tailors and checkers were paid at most £65 (4,739 rupees) a month - £2.70 (195 rupees a day) or just 33p (26 rupees) an hour.

    In addition to M&S, one of the factories turned out clothes for Debenhams and Next, with other clients on their website including H&M and Arcadia (Dorothy Perkins, Bhs and Miss Selfridge). And besides M&S, the other supplier made clothes for Next and according to researchers its website said Monsoon and Arcadia group brands were regular buyers.

    Sam Maher, a campaigner at Labour Behind the Label and author of the report, said: "Workers interviewed from these factories spoke of living in a climate of fear, where violence and systematic exclusion from rights was a daily reality. These conditions and their poverty wages are inexcusable. Brands sourcing from Gurgaon must take action to stop violence against unionised workers and make sure they pay prices that allow for a living wage."

    Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at War on Want, said: "These factories betray the wrong kind of X factor – they deserve X certificates for the violent way the suppliers exploit their workers. For years British retailers have failed to keep their pledges on decent treatment for the people who make their clothes. It is high time the UK government stopped this abuse."

    According to the report, the workers suffer long hours in sweltering temperatures, verbal and physical abuse, unsafe water and poor sanitation, as well as casual employment, and are denied their entitlement to social rights, protection and benefits. They face a climate of fear and insecurity, where their everyday choices are limited by the contractors, factory owners, landlords and authorities who control their lives.

    Though all the retailers highlighted point to their code for voluntary overtime not exceeding 12 hours a week, workers at one factory had to toil up to 140 hours a month overtime, but were paid the standard rate. The other factory's employees were also forced to toil until 2 am several times a month. Both suppliers banned workers from trade union activities. The workers often cannot afford breakfast and share one-room slum homes with their families or other staff. Researchers found only two toilets for all the residents of 18 rooms. Most workers lack enough money to send their children to school.

    The report – Taking Liberties: the story behind the UK high street – underlines that the workers make clothes not for cheap retailers and supermarkets linked with sweatshops, but for more expensive brands that promote their quality and respectable standards.

    It cites the £632.5 million pre-tax M&S profits for the 12 months year ending in March. The report also says the £15 million that media claimed new chief executive Marc Bolland could earn if the retailer exceeds its targets would be the sum needed to ensure a living wage for around 10,000 garment workers for a year.


    The factories employed between 3,330 and 4,200 workers, with nine in 10 of them men – unusual for the garment industry – and the lowest-paid jobs of packing and finishing given to women. Much of the manufacturing in Gurgaon takes place in export processing zones, which attract foreign investment through tax incentives and exemptions on legal regulations, including employment laws. The city has drawn hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from other parts of India and neighbouring countries, such as Bangladesh and Nepal. But these migrants cannot obtain the documents needed for government services and support provided to registered citizens, and they seldom complain of employers' abuse through their fear of the authorities.

    Paul Collins, War on Want media officer (+44) (0)20 7324 5054 or (+44) (0)7983 550728
    Anna McMullen, Labour Behind the Label campaigns coordinator (+44) (0)7786 832035




    This webpage has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this webpage are the sole responsibility of War on Want and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.




    A Living Wage for Workers

    The right to be paid a living wage is a basic entitlement of all working people the world over, whether they work in the public or private sectors, in the global South or North.

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