News

Giant new Primark store sparks row

30 April 2009 - 12:00am

PICTURE/INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITY

NEWS HOOK

Saturday, 2 May 2009 Campaigners protest at British fashion retailer Primark's giant new London store over workers' pay and conditions

When? 9.00-10.00 am BST, Saturday 2 May 2009
What? Protest over workers paid as little as 7p an hour to make Primark clothes
Where? Primark, 31 Mitcham Road, London SW17 9PA (opposite Tooting Broadway tube station)


Store faces 7p an hour protest

Campaigners will protest on Saturday (2 May) at British fashion retailer Primark's huge new two-floor store in London over poverty wages for garment workers.

Activists, including teenagers, from the fair trade fashion company People Tree and anti-poverty charity War on Want will hand out leaflets to shoppers, calling for a living wage and an end to the exploitation of garment workers making clothes for Primark.

And they will demand British government regulation to stop the retailer abusing its suppliers.

The protestors will also hand in a letter for Primark's new ethical trading director, Katherine Kirk, at the south London store in Tooting.

Primark today switched the store launch to tomorrow (Friday, 1 May) after campaigners told the retailer they would protest on the scheduled opening day, Saturday.

Activists, including teenagers, from the fair trade fashion company People Tree and anti-poverty charity War on Want will hand out leaflets to shoppers, calling for a living wage and an end to the exploitation of garment workers making clothes for Primark.

And they will demand British government regulation to stop the retailer abusing its suppliers.

The protestors will also hand in a letter for Primark's new ethical trading director, Katherine Kirk, at the south London store in Tooting.

Primark has moved to the former Marks and Spencer branch from a single-floor local shop.

Last week Primark's parent company, Associated British Foods, announced a 10 per cent rise in profits to £122 million for the retailer during the last six months, after £233 million profits during the 12 months ending in September.

The protestors will cite Primark's code of conduct which says living wages are paid, working hours are not excessive, no harsh or inhumane treatment is allowed and freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are respected.

In December the charity's research, Fashion Victims II, cited workers producing clothes for Primark in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka earning as little as 7p an hour for up to 80-hour weeks.

Some employees received only the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, far less than the £44.82 (5333 taka) needed for nutritious food, clean water, shelter, clothes, education, health care and transport.

The average workers' pay, £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, represented less than half a living wage.

Amid food and fuel inflation, employees' living standards had fallen since they were interviewed two years earlier.

The vast majority of employees lived in small, crowded shacks, many of which lack plumbing and adequate washing facilities.

Though forced overtime is illegal in Bangladesh, employees said they were made to toil extra hours, often unpaid.

Workers complained that in the fast fashion rush to produce the latest styles, many of them suffered verbal and physical abuse as they struggled to meet unrealistic targets. Yet the Dhaka workers said none of their factories was unionised.

Safia Minney, chief executive officer of People Tree and founder of World Fair Trade Day, who lives in Beaches Road, Tooting, said: "Despite Primark's huge increase in profits, workers' living conditions are worse than two years ago and they are having to deal with a huge increase in food costs. Fast, cheap fashion has flooded the UK high street. But garment workers are unable to fill their stomachs, however many bags of fast fashion we buy. That's the true cost of fast fashion. Consumers can be part of the solution in supporting better practice and fair trade fashion."

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "Primark is raking in profits and expanding with new stores like Tooting by selling clothes which are so cheap because the people who produce them earn so little. The retailer has failed for years to match its claim to pay a living wage with real action. Now the British government must bring in effective regulation to halt this abuse."

CONTACTS

People Tree PR manager Antony Waller (+44) (0)20 7739 9659 or (+44) (0)7888 654326
War on Want media officer Paul Collins (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

Comment is free: Miliband and the mercenaries

29 April 2009 - 12:25pm

The government's refusal to regulate military companies opens the way to the privatisation of war

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Charity appeals to ‘generous' Scots

28 April 2009 - 2:21pm

Bid to aid campaigns on sweatshops, tax dodges

The leading charity War on Want tomorrow (Wednesday) launches a new fundraising appeal to Scots' generosity to step up its campaigns against fashion sweatshops and its support of anti-poverty action in developing countries.

Last April a survey by the Charities Aid Foundation revealed that Scots are more likely to give money to charity than people elsewhere in Britain.

Mehmet Baylav, senior fundraising officer at War on Want, said: "Scottish donors have played a major role in our struggles to win justice with many of the poorest people.

"Now, as the international economic crisis hits the poor hardest, we hope more Scots will show their generous spirit by joining our fight for a fairer world."

War on Want contrasts retailer Primark's latest half-year profits, £122 million, with Bangladeshi workers producing its clothes for as little as 7p an hour for up to 80-hour weeks. War on Want has also revealed that employees making Asda clothes, as well as Tesco garment and wine workers, earn less than a living wage.

War on Want hopes its street fundraisers will sign up new donors who can give £10 a month to support the charity's growing pressure on the UK government to introduce regulation which stops this abuse.

War on Want is also pushing ministers to end tax havens and tax dodging which cost Britain £100 billion a year and developing countries £250 billion a year.

NOTES TO EDITORS
War on Want fundraisers will seek to recruit donors in the mornings and afternoons on:
Wednesday in Buchanan Street in central Glasgow and Galashiels town centre.
Thursday in Edinburgh's Princes Street and the main Kirkcaldy shopping area.
Friday in Argyle Street, Glasgow, and Perth's town centre.
Saturday in the main shopping districts of Falkirk and Stirling.

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

 

Miliband blasted on green light for mercenaries

24 April 2009 - 5:39pm

NEWS HOOK

British government announces public consultation over regulating UK private military firms


‘Approval will increase human rights abuse'

British foreign secretary David Miliband is today attacked for backing the use of mercenary troops, which the charity War on Want says will increase the risk of human rights abuse.

The accusation comes as the UK government hailed the industry's "positive and legitimate role" in spite of widespread reports of human rights abuse by private military companies.

Launching a public consultation over regulating private military firms, Miliband described the industry as "essential" and recommended self-regulation only, despite calls for rigorous controls by MPs and War on Want.

According to the charity, self-regulation could leave civilians in war zones such as Afghanistan and Iraq exposed to further abuse by mercenaries working for British firms.

It says that UK troops' planned withdrawal from Iraq increases the need for strict regulation of mercenaries who will still work there and in other war zones.

War on Want points to hundreds of incidents of human rights abuse which have involved private military companies.

Yasmin Khan, senior campaigns officer at the charity, said: "Miliband is giving a green light to the use of mercenaries in war. The human rights abuses we have seen from private military personnel cry out for proper legislation. Self-regulation is not an option."

The government's announcement comes 18 months on since the wounding of two Iraqi civilians by mercenaries with the British firm Erinys International, who fired on a cab near Kirkuk.

Earlier in 2007 mercenaries working for the US private military company Blackwater, now renamed Xe, randomly shot at and killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.

War on Want has spearheaded the campaign for tough legislation, including a ban on mercenaries' use in combat and combat support.

And British MPs on the Commons foreign affairs select committee have called for strict curbs on these firms, with provision for prosecution in UK courts for serious human rights abuse committed abroad.

NOTES TO EDITORS

War on Want led the call for control over Private Military Companies when the charity launched its report Corporate Mercenaries (link below).

http://www.waronwant.org/campaigns/corporations-and-conflict/corporate-m...

  • A year later, War on Want stepped up its drive after the Blackwater and Erinys shootings.
  • In December 2007, the charity published the briefing paper Getting Away with Murder. It cited reporters of hundreds of human rights violations by mercenary troops in Iraq to strengthen its campaign for curbs, including a ban on mercenaries' use in combat.
  • In February last year War on Want launched a legal challenge on the British government over its failure to ensure democratic control over private armies.
  • Last July the charity accused the UK of blocking regulation after a document, acquired under freedom of information laws, revealed ministers went close to launching pre-legislative consultation.

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

Stop the Wall and the BDS campaign

24 April 2009 - 5:27pm

On 30 March thousands of people from across the globe took part in activities to raise awareness of the injustice of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine

The global day of action focussed on the need for the international community to take action by boycotting and stopping investments in Israeli products and companies. Whilst people in countries across the globe, including Britain, France, Italy, India, Canada, Brazil, took part in demonstrations by flyering and promoting the global campaign for boycotts, divestments and sanctions, War on Want the partner Stop the Wall Campaign was active on the ground in Palestine.

30 March is also Land Day, which commemorates the 1976 killing of six Palestinian citizens of Israel by Israeli forces for protesting the illegal expropriation of Palestinian land. Land day was marked by activists in Palestine and across the globe who are active in resisting the occupation.

In Palestine, Stop the Wall mobilised large groups of people to plant trees on threatened land near the Apartheid Wall and marched through the villages carrying Palestinian flags and banners. The marchers engaged in peaceful protest, but they were met with violence from the Israeli security forces, who fired rubber bullets and teargas bombs into the crowds. Five people were injured by rubber bullets and dozens more injured from gas inhalation. Muhammed Abdelhafid Musleh, a local university student, was shot in the arm with live ammunition and was rushed to a hospital in Ramallah.

The protests ended a week later in Bethlehem and Ramallah, where people came together to mark Land Day and also to strengthen the boycott movement at national level. Omar Asaf, a representative of the BDS National Committee of which Stop the Wall is a member, explained the importance of the movement: "in Palestine the boycott of Israeli products, institutions and companies is once again gaining ground. Increasing numbers of students, women and ordinary people see the boycott of Israel as an effective form of resistance and are beginning to make it a part of their daily lives."

War on Want will continue to support Stop the Wall's efforts to build a movement for boycotts, divestments and sanctions, at both national and global level in order to end the Israeli Occupation.

UK campaigners score victory towards arms embargo

24 April 2009 - 1:52pm

» Original article at Electronic Intifada - (içi en français)

The UK government recently revealed that components supplied by Britain were "almost certainly" used by Israel in its recent assault on Gaza.

Tesco, Primark ‘poverty profits' attacked

21 April 2009 - 12:00am

NEWS HOOK

Tuesday, 21 April 2009: Tesco and Primark (Associated British Foods) announce profits growth


Retailers slated over clothes workers' pay

Leading British retailers Tesco and Primark today are accused of cashing in on the recession with cheap fashion sales by exploiting overseas garment workers.

The accusation comes as this morning Tesco announced record £3 billion full-year profits and Primark's owner, Associated British Foods, revealed a half-year 10 per cent rise in the retailer's profits.

The charity War on Want condemned both companies for driving down labour costs from suppliers, whose employees pay a high price through poverty pay and worsening living standards.

Its research published in December showed workers producing clothes for Tesco and Primark in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka earn as little as 7p an hour for up to 80-hour weeks.

Some employees receive only the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, far less than the £44.82 (5333 taka) needed for nutritious food, clean water, shelter, clothes, education, health care and transport.

The average workers' pay, £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, represented less than half a living wage.

Amid food and fuel inflation, employees' living standards had fallen since War on Want interviewed them two years earlier.

Last June the charity and the group Labour Behind the Label reported that workers making Tesco clothes in the Indian city of Bangalore struggled on less than £1.50 a day for a 60-hour week, with higher rice prices making life even harder.

Employees in the factory earn on average £38 a month, and the lowest paid receive just £30, while the Bangalore Garment and Textile Workers' Union calculates a living wage as at least £52 a month.

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "Tesco and Primark are thriving by selling cheap clothes while the workers producing them are paid a pittance. Despite the retailers' continued promises, wages remain well below living costs for garment workers and their families. It is high time the UK government stopped this abuse."

NOTE TO EDITORS: War on Want's research in Bangladesh and India is available at:

http://www.waronwant.org/news/press-releases/16361-poverty-clothes-shame-primark

http://www.waronwant.org/news/press-releases/16151-tesco-sweatshop-shame-fury

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

 

 

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