War on Want story wins award

13 June 2008 - 2:32pm
Press release

Guardian senior news reporter Karen McVeigh won the press section award for her story on workers making clothes for British stores toiling for up to 80 hours a week for as little as 4p an hour in Bangladesh.

The 12 award categories attracted over 300 entries, a record for the annual prizes given by the One World Broadcasting Trust, which aims to increase understanding between developed and developing countries.

McVeigh's splash and double-page spread triumphed over two other shortlisted pieces - one on Gaza farmers by Independent correspondent Donald Macintyre and another on suicide bombers by Hala Jaber of the Sunday Times.

As she is in hospital after giving birth to twins, her sister Tracy, chief reporter on the Guardian?s stablemate The Observer, collected the award for her at the London ceremony .

Ceremony host Jon Snow, the Channel 4 News presenter, said the press section judges selected McVeigh's story because the piece made the retailers pledge to improve working conditions in their supply chains.

War on Want nominated McVeigh for her article last July on employees producing clothes for Primark, Asda and Tesco facing poor wages and conditions six months after the charity exposed the scandal in its Fashion Victims report.

In the article employees of factories making clothes for George at Asda, Tesco and Primark said their wages were so low that, despite working up to 84-hour weeks, they struggled to provide for their families.

There were also reports of physical and verbal abuse by supervisors and of workers being sacked for taking sick leave.

All but one of the eight workers interviewed, from seven different factories in the capital Dhaka, claimed they were forced to work 12-hour days and sometimes all night to finish an order.

Employees from companies supplying all three retailers said they were refused access to trade unions and claimed that in the previous month four colleagues had been dismissed for trying to organise a union.

Parvin, 25, a sewing machine operator making jeans for Primark, said that she felt "threatened and frightened" when seeing a colleague slapped by a supervisor for not meeting her target.

Azizul, 28, who works in another factory producing items for Primark, said he had been sacked and his wages withheld for two days' leave to take his baby daughter to hospital.

War on Want helped McVeigh interview workers, who met her at their homes to avoid bosses' reprisals.

Paul Collins, the charity's media officer, said: "We are thrilled Karen won the award for this important story and congratulate her on this success and the birth of the twins."

 


 

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. McVeigh's front page piece is online here
  2.  

     

  3. Her double-page spread is here
  4.  

     

  5. Fashion Victims, the War on Want report on employees producing clothes for Primark, Asda and Tesco, can be downloaded here

 

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) ((0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

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