London Fashion Week clothes fury

19 February 2009 - 3:33pm


Friday, 20 February 2009 London Fashion Week starts

Friday, 20 February 2009 The first UN World Day of Social Justice

EMBARGO: 00.01 hrs GMT, Friday 20 February 2009

‘Poverty pay spectre haunts industry'

London Fashion Week opens today facing accusations by the charity War on Want that garment workers are paid poverty wages producing clothing for some of Britain's largest retailers.

With the week starting on the first UN Day of Social Justice, the charity warned that exploitation haunts the event.

War on Want has led the way in campaigning against systemic abuse of overseas garment workers, toiling marathon hours, turning out fashion for British stores for less than a living wage - enough for food, housing and healthcare.

In December its research showed that amid rising food and fuel prices Bangladeshi employees, making fashion for Primark, Tesco and Asda for as little as seven pence an hour, are in deeper poverty than two years earlier.

In March this year a BBC investigation found migrant workers in the English northern city of Manchester toiling 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for £3 an hour, well below the adult minimum wage of £5.73.

And in March last year War on Want collaborated with the UK newspaper the Guardian to reveal Indian workers producing clothing for Gap's upmarket chain Banana Republic received well under a living wage for 70 hours a week.

Simon McRae, the charity's senior campaigns officer, said: "London Fashion Week promotes itself as a great ambassador for British industry. But the trend which is always in vogue is the exploitation of workers. If ministers want the industry to be a positive advertisement for the UK, they must introduce regulation to halt this abuse."


  • The War on Want report Fashion Victims II can be downloaded here
  • The Guardian story on Banana Republic can be found here

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


Defending the rights of flower workers in Kenya

13 February 2009 - 6:22pm

Thousands of flower bouquets will be purchased in Britain this Valentine's Day. Yet few of us consider the conditions faced by the workers producing flowers for export, the vast majority of whom are women. The Kenya Women Workers' Organisation (KEWWO), a War on Want partner organisation which promotes the rights of flower workers, recently told us about one case where it intervened to help a woman whose health had suffered from exposure to dangerous chemicals on a flower farm:

Jessica is 35 years of age and a female worker on one of the flower farms in Nakuru. She has worked on several flower farms in Nakuru, but while working on this particular farm she began experiencing health problems, most notably very severe pain in her abdomen. She decided to report her case to the supervisor, but he never took it seriously. She decided to consult a doctor who attributed the pain to her exposure to pesticides used to spray flowers. She reported this matter to the labour office, but the labour officials also ignored her. Without any money to consult a lawyer, she gave up on the matter. As she explained it, "in this country if you don't have money you become helpless. Maybe you people will be able to help, otherwise I have left it to God." When Jessica told us the story, KEWWO presented this matter to the office of labour and is now pursuing the matter on her behalf.

KEWWO has long been championing the rights of Kenyan flower workers. With the support of War on Want, KEWWO has had a tangible impact on the lives of workers like Jessica who have been exploited on the flower farms and plantations across Kenya.

Read more about KEWWO and their work promoting the rights of flower workers.

£2 Valentine flowers poverty alert

13 February 2009 - 4:11pm

Warning over Asda ‘ethical' bouquets

Valentine's wine whine

13 February 2009 - 12:00am


Cape wine workers paid less than R60 a day

13 February 2009 - 12:00am

Mail & Guardian Online (South Africa)

Valentine's Day wine ‘shame'

12 February 2009 - 3:07pm

NEWS HOOK Saturday, 14 February 2009 St Valentine's Day

EMBARGO: 00.01 hrs GMT, Friday 13 February 2009

African workers pay the price for supermarket greed - report

Lovers buying wine for Valentine's Day tomorrow are today warned that South African workers face poverty wages supplying British supermarkets.

In a new report the anti-poverty charity War on Want cites worsening conditions for employees as UK retailers and wine brokers drive down suppliers' prices to boost their profits.

Amid rising food and fuel costs, large numbers of workers in the Western Cape region are struggling to feed and clothe their families and pay for healthcare and their children's school fees.

Supermarkets control the biggest share of the UK wine market, selling over 80 per cent of all imports. Britain is the world's largest importer of South African wine, buying almost a third by volume. Tesco sells most South African wine (20 per cent), the Co-op 14 per cent, Sainsbury's 12 per cent and Asda and Morrisons 9 per cent each.

The report, Sour Grapes, says that supermarkets and wine agents force suppliers to cut production costs by dominating markets and abusing their buyer power. This traps vineyard and fruit employees in low pay and insecure jobs, with farmers increasingly hiring seasonal employees who earn less and lack entitlements received by permanent workers, such as housing and sick pay.

Though many farms are in remote places, workers must walk there, unable to afford transport. Most seasonal employees are women, earning less than men on permanent contracts and often suffering from sexual harassment at work.

Growing numbers of workers are migrants, who travel long distances in a desperate hunt for even temporary jobs. Migrants experience problems defending their rights as they do not speak Afrikaans, the main Cape language.

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "Many of us will buy South African wine in supermarkets to share with loved ones on St Valentine's Day. But, for workers producing the wine, these supermarkets and wine agents are more sinners than saints. It is time the UK government introduced regulation to stop this shameful abuse."

War on Want is urging shoppers to write to business secretary Lord Mandelson, urging him to enable overseas workers to seek redress if UK companies or their suppliers exploit them.


  • Sour Grapes: South African wine workers and British supermarket power is based on  research conducted by the International Institute for Environment and Development for War on Want and its South African partner, the trade union Sikhula Sonke.
  • More information on Sikhula Sonke can be found here

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

Jack Whitehall added to comedy bill

12 February 2009 - 2:44pm

Rising star Jack Whitehall has been added to the bill at Comedy Gig 2009, an exciting evening of standup and skits in support of War on Want's work fighting global poverty.


Jack joins an already stellar lineup which features Mark Thomas, Mark Thomas, Daniel Kitson, Adam Bloom, Andi Osho, Paul Sinha, Shappi Khorsandi and Tim Vine.

At only twenty years old, Jack Whitehall has made a remarkable impact on the comedy world. One of the highlights of War on Want's Comedy Gig 2008, he is fresh from a presenting stint on Channel 4 after an impressive debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Purchase tickets now for Comedy 2009 before it's fully booked!


Caterpillar disinvestment move hailed

11 February 2009 - 11:53am

Investors urged to follow Church lead

War on Want welcomes the decision by the Church of England to disinvest from Caterpillar. Institutional investors are today urged to follow the Church by disinvesting from a company whose bulldozers have been used to build the Separation Wall and destroy Palestinians' homes.

The call, from the anti-poverty charity War on Want, comes after the Church of England decision to divest £2.2 million from Caterpillar on financial grounds.

Yasmin Khan, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "The Church of England's decision to disinvest from Caterpillar is welcome. It also brings the Church in line with its own ethical investment policy and the decision of the General Synod. Now other institutional investors should take similar action."

War on Want has long called for the Church of England to disinvest from Caterpillar on the grounds of the company's complicity in the violation of Palestinian human rights.

In the report Profiting From the Occupation, the charity attacked Caterpillar over selling bulldozers for the Israeli army to destroy Palestinian homes, schools, orchards and olive groves.

It said that equipment from Caterpillar was also used to construct the Separation Wall, ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice.

And the UN has singled out Caterpillar in particular for its collusion with Israel's human rights abuse.

In 2006 the Church of England General Synod voted to withdraw its investment from Caterpillar. But the Church Commissioners failed to follow the Synod's decision.

After the Israeli onslaught against Gaza in recent weeks, Palestinian civil society groups, including the charity's partner Stop the Wall, have called for an escalation of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.

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

Protest music thrives in South Africa's shack settlements

10 February 2009 - 2:24pm

In South African's shack settlements activists are increasingly using music to oppose government policies that violate the rights of the poor. Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM), a grassroots movement of shack dwellers and War on Want partner, has been at the forefront of this powerful form of resistance.

During the Apartheid era activists opposing the South African government were prohibited from contributing to mainstream media outlets such as national newspapers and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). As a result of strict government control over the media, South African activists turned to a range of alternative sources to express their opposition to the minority rule government. Music in particular emerged as a crucial channel through which activists could mobilise against and raise awareness of the oppressive nature of the regime.

After the fall of Apartheid regime 15 years ago, music still plays a role in the movement to oppose policies that have devastated poor communities. On their recently released album ‘Hlis'uMoya' (‘bringing salvation' in isiZulu), the Dlamini King Brothers, a 12-member acapella choir based in Durban, South Africa, lament the conditions faced by poor communities - and the failure of government to safeguard their rights.

abm_thumbThe Dlamini King Brothers are based in the informal settlements of Durban where Abahlalibase Mjondolo (ABM), a War on Want partner organisation, began its landmark campaign against evictions and the lack of public services for communities of shack dwellers. In recent years ABM has earned many crucial victories in its struggle promoting the rights of the poor communities located in and around Durban.

ABM's efforts in building a powerful movement have been supported by the music of groups like Dlamini King Brothers. The group pays tribute to ABM on their latest album with a song named ‘Ablahali'. The song praises the organisation for its campaign work on behalf of Durban's poor communities. In the song the group calls on the government to listen to the needs of impoverished communities, echoing ABM's own call to government officials to ‘talk with us, not for us'.

Many Apartheid-era pieces of legislation have remained on the books despite the rise to power of the African National Congress, depriving South Africa's shack dwellers a role in the political process. These communities face a range of social problems, from a lack of clean water and electricity in their homes to inadequate health care and a subpar education system. Moreover, the recently passed Slums Act has resulted in thousands of forced evictions and the demolition of shack settlements. As South Africa prepares for the 2010 World Cup, it is expected that the number of forced removals will increase.

In spite of the challenges faced by poor communities, ABM and the shack dwellers will continue to fight for their homes and for the provision of social services. As the group builds its movement, ABM and poor communities in the Durban area will continue to draw inspiration and strength from the music of the Dlamini King Brothers.

You can listen to the song 'Abahlali' by the award-winning Dlamini King Brothers, and purchase the album online by contacting ABM

Also available online is 'A Place in the City', a recently made documentary about ABM



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