News

New sweatshop row hits Primark

3 December 2009 - 11:01pm

  1. Press release
  2. Research
  3. Picture opportunity

NEWS PEG: Friday, 4 December 2009 London Primark hails sales growth at its annual meeting

EMBARGO: 00.01 hrs GMT, Friday, 4 December 2009


£19 a month workers demo targets AGM

Primark's ethical claims face a pounding today (Friday, 4 December) as new research exposes another sweatshop where garment workers producing its clothes toil up to 84 hours a week and can earn as little as £19 a month - less than half a living wage.

Anti-poverty campaigners will demonstrate outside Primark's flagship London store only hours before the cheap fashion retailer celebrates huge sales expansion at its parent company's annual meeting.

Activists from the charity War on Want will protest at Primark exploiting workers making T-shirts, skirts, trousers and babywear in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.

And the campaigners will then go into the meeting with Stacey Dooley from the television series Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts.

The charity's research (briefing below) found employees at the factory earn as little as £19.42 a month (2200 taka) before overtime - less than half the living wage of at least £39.74 a month (4500 taka). They are compelled to toil up to 84 hours a week, but ordered to tell buyers they earn a proper wage and face no excessive working hours. The factory also produces clothes for New Look and Zara.

One garment worker, Madhovi, aged 21, said: "My mother is losing her sight in our family's village. The pay is so little that I cannot afford to send money for her treatment. Happy days will never dawn. All our dreams will remain unfulfilled."

Another worker, Ratna, also 21, said: "My husband has a terminal illness. I have paid for his treatment, but can only to afford to see our small daughter once in two years."

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "Our research underlines the abuse which faces overseas garment workers producing high street clothes. Shoppers cannot rely on retailers to police themselves. Now Gordon Brown must act."

Primark says the retailer has doubled audits and inspections of its factories, appointed an ethical trade director and more ethical trade managers, trained buyers, senior personnel and suppliers in ethical trading, and implemented a new online audit management system.

Khorshed Alam, the Dhaka-based researcher behind the latest study and Fashion Victims II, said: "None of Primark's claims - so-called ethical staff, training and audits - have made any difference to the workers' poverty."

Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers' Federation, said: "This new research and the study last year show typically bad factories which abuse workers' rights."

Thousands of people have supported War on Want's Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign, the biggest-ever call for British government action to stop fashion retailers exploiting overseas workers.


NOTE TO EDITORS

War on Want will protest from 9.00-10.00 am GMT on Friday, 4 December 2009 outside Primark's flagship store at 499 Oxford Street, London W1C 2QQ
The annual meeting of Primark's parent company, Associated British Foods, takes place at 11.00 am on Friday (4 December) at the TUC, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS.
Last month Primark announced a massive 20 per cent jump in sales to £2.3 billion for the year to 12 September and profits up 8 per cent to £252 million.
The War on Want report which showed Primark workers exploited at three other factories can be found here

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


RESEARCH

Comparison between Primark's ethical claims and reality

INTRODUCTION

War on Want's research has exposed how sweatshop conditions abroad are a direct consequence of the business practices of high street shops here in Britain. These companies squeeze suppliers to obtain cheap garments in bulk that can be sold to UK consumers at bargain prices. The conditions in factories supplying British shops are scandalous. In garment sweatshops across Bangladesh, workers earn poverty wages, work long hours, face abuse and are denied trade union representation. War on Want's groundbreaking Fashion Victims reports published in 2006 and 2008 uncovered shocking treatment in factories supplying Tesco, Asda and Primark.

Primark has responded to criticism by making a number of ethical promises about improving standards in its supply chain, including increased audits and inspections of factories, the appointment of an ethical trade director and more ethical trade managers and the training of buyers, senior personnel and suppliers in ethical trade, and implemented a new online audit management system. As a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative, Primark has committed to ensuring workers receive a living wage. The ETI's code of conduct also calls for decent working conditions, a 48-hour working week and the right to join a trade union.

However, trusting companies to clean up their act simply does not work. The latest War on Want research exposes Primark's continuing failure to comply with the ETI standards to which the company has signed up. War on Want has interviewed workers making Primark clothes at a sweatshop factory in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka. Workers in the factory earn as little as half a living wage, work up to 84 hours a week, face harassment and are not allowed to join a union.

Workers in the factory and War on Want's partner in Bangladesh the National Garment Workers' Federation, say that the factory is typical. The factory also supplies New Look and Zara.

War on Want has launched Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops, a campaign to end sweatshop exploitation once and for all. War on Want is calling on the government to regulate the fashion industry, with firm provisions to guarantee basic rights for workers, including a living wage and the right to join a union.

PRIMARK CODE OF CONDUCT TESTED

Primark's code of conduct lists "the standards we require from our suppliers". War on Want's research contrasts these standards with the findings of our latest research.

  1. PRIMARK CODE: EMPLOYMENT IS FREELY CHOSEN
    There is no forced, bonded or involuntary prison labour.

    WAR ON WANT RESEARCH:
    Overtime is mandatory. It is not considered optional. Workers at the factory toil on average 70 hours a week, including 20 hours of compulsory overtime. The workers say that if they refuse overtime their bosses deduct from their pay the wage for their overtime the previous day.

  2. PRIMARK CODE: FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION AND THE RIGHT TO COLLECTIVE BARGAINING ARE RESPECTED
    Workers, without distinction, have the right to join or form trade unions of their own choosing and to bargain collectively. The employer adopts an open attitude towards the activities of trade unions and their organisational activities. Workers' representatives are not discriminated against and have access to carry out their representative functions in the workplace. Such representative functions should include a workers' committee, with elected members where workers can confidentially raise concerns they may have with regard to these guidelines. Where the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining is restricted under law, the employer facilitates, and does not hinder, the development of parallel means for independent and free association and bargaining.

    WAR ON WANT RESEARCH

    :
    According to the workers in the factory, trade unions have been banned.
  3. PRIMARK CODE: WORKING CONDITIONS ARE SAFE AND HYGIENIC
    A safe and hygienic working environment shall be provided, bearing in mind the prevailing knowledge of the industry and of any specific hazards. Access to clean toilet facilities and to potable water, and, if appropriate, sanitary facilities for food storage shall be provided.

    WAR ON WANT RESEARCH:
    The factory lacks any safe drinking water. Workers must risk their health by using tap water. The supplier employs 1000 workers, with 350 making Primark clothes. They share small, unhygienic toilets. The toilets and wash rooms do not even provide tap water.

  4. PRIMARK CODE: LIVING WAGES ARE PAID
    Wages and benefits paid for a standard working week meet, at a minimum, national legal standards or industry benchmark standards, whichever is higher. In any event wages should always be enough to meet basic needs and to provide some discretionary income. All workers shall be provided with written and understandable information about their employment conditions in respect to wages before they enter employment and about the particulars of their wages for the pay period concerned each time that they are paid. Deductions from wages as a disciplinary measure shall not be permitted nor shall any deductions from wages not provided for by national law be permitted without the express permission of the worker concerned. All disciplinary measures should be recorded.

    WAR ON WANT RESEARCH:
    Workers earn as little as £19.42 a month (2200 taka) before overtime - less than half the living wage of at least £39.74 a month (4500 taka). Employees on average receive £20.31 a month (2300 taka), with the highest on £26.50 a month (3000 taka). None of these workers can afford nutritious food, decent housing and adequate healthcare. The vast majority of the employees live in slum homes - one room, often shared with up to three family members - without access to clean water or hygienic toilets. They share kitchens, toilets and bathrooms with other families. Workers interviewed are exhausted and malnourished. Employees who work standing up suffer from swollen legs. Most of the employees reported that in recent months one or two family members had suffered health problems such as stomach pain, dysentery, jaundice, diarrhoea or heart disease.

    The supplier fails to give workers any written employment information, such as their appointment letter or any other document which complies with national labour laws or decent conditions in line with the standards of the United Nations agency the International Labour Organisation. Wages are paid as late as 10 days into the next month, with up to 15 days' wait for overtime pay. The workers said they received no wage slips. Employees cannot plan their childcare as they only learn of any need to undertake compulsory overtime on arrival at the factory. Anyone who fails to return after a lunch break forfeits a full day's pay. Workers also lose pay for lateness or absence without prior consent.

  5. PRIMARK CODE: WORKING HOURS ARE NOT EXCESSIVE
    Working hours comply with national laws and benchmark industry standards, whichever affords greater protection. Workers shall not be required to work in excess of 48 hours per week and shall be provided with at least one day off for every 7 day period on average. Overtime must be on a voluntary basis, shall not exceed 12 hours a week, shall not be demanded on a regular basis and shall always be compensated at a premium rate.

    WAR ON WANT RESEARCH:
    Workers interviewed toil six days a week and between 9 to 14 hours a day, including one hour for lunch. Overtime is mandatory. Depending on the workload, employees can be made to work seven days a week and can finish as late as 10pm. An average working week is 70 hours long . However, workers can be made to work for up to 84 hours a week. Employees say they receive just 60 per cent extra pay for overtime which should be paid at the full rate earned in normal hours.

  6. PRIMARK CODE: NO DISCRIMINATION IS PRACTISED
    There is no discrimination in hiring, compensation, access to training, promotion, termination or retirement based on race, caste, national origin, religion, age, disability, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, union membership or political affiliation.

    WAR ON WANT RESEARCH:
    According to workers, men obtain better paid jobs than women. The supplier's recruitment favours single women rather than mothers with childcare responsibilities. The factory shows buyers its daycare centre for children, but no child is allowed there, according to War on Want's researcher.

  7. PRIMARK CODE: NO HARSH OR INHUMANE TREATMENT IS ALLOWED
    Physical abuse or discipline, the threat of physical abuse, sexual or other harassment and verbal abuse or other forms of intimidation shall be prohibited.

    WAR ON WANT RESEARCH:
    Women workers say they suffer physical and verbal abuse from supervisors for reasons such as enquiries about pay and overtime or requests for leave.

 

PRIMARK ETHICAL MOVES TESTED

PRIMARK ACTION
Primark says the retailer has doubled audits and inspections of its factories this year, appointed an ethical trade director and more ethical trade managers, trained buyers, senior personnel and suppliers in ethical trading, and implemented a new online audit management system.

WAR ON WANT RESEARCH
Interviewees said the factory's owners ensure the workplace and toilets are clean for buyers' visits. Employees are instructed to tell buyers they have a comfortable work environment, receive a proper wage and face no excessive hours or forced overtime.

Methodology

The above information is based on interviews conducted with 18 workers at one factory in Bangladesh during October 2009.

  • The ages of workers ranged from 19 to 28 years, with 22 years the average.
  • Sixteen women and two men were interviewed, reflecting the gender demographic of the factory.
  • Of these workers, ten were married and eight had children.
  • The factory, typical of Dhaka suppliers, makes clothes for Primark and other retailers including two other British chains, New Look and Zara.
  • Employees' names have been changed and the factory's identity withheld to protect workers from reprisals.
  • The exchange rate from taka to sterling has been calculated at £1 = 113 taka , the average rate for October 2009.

CASE STUDIES

Madhovi
Madhovi, aged 21, comes from Bogra in northern Bangladesh and moved to the capital Dhaka for work in a garment factory. She lost her farmer father four years ago. Her mother works as a maid and lives with Madhovi's sister and brother in their rural village.

Madhovi, who earns £21.57 (2500 taka) a month - barely half a living wage - says: "Somehow, I survive on this money, but feel miserable. Simple food and rent gobbles up the money. Happy days will never dawn. All our dreams will remain unfulfilled.

"Both my mother and I wear wornout dresses from other women. She is so poor that the family cannot always eat. I can only go to see her once a year.

"My mother is losing her sight. The pay is so little that I cannot afford to send money for her treatment.

"When I was ill, I could not pay for a doctor. I don't tell my family about my misery. I always say, I am fine. My pay has not increased for two years.

"I manage to send some money home so that my sister and brother can go to school. My mother senses my hardship and wants to take them out of school.

"But I want to see them educated. I don't want them to work in the garment industry. I will eat little and try to send money for them."

Ratna
Ratna is also 21 and from Kamarpara in northern Bangladesh. Her parents died when she was small.

Ratna had to give up school due to poverty.

Later she married a man and both came to Dhaka for work in garment factories.

Ratna, who also earns £21.57 (2500 taka) a month, says: "My husband has a terminal illness. I have paid for his treatment, but can only afford to see our small daughter once in two years.

"How can I afford the travel costs after meeting all our expenses? Prices have soared sky high. Everything is costly."

Ratna had to borrow £43.14 (5000 taka) in order to be reunited with her three-year-old daughter during the recent Muslim festival Eid.

Ratna said: "She wants to see us. I must pay this money back in instalments. I will have to eat just plain rice and lentils.

"Because her father is sick, I want to see my daughter become a doctor to treat the poor."


PICTURE OPPORTUNITY

WHEN? 9.00-10,00 am GMT, Friday, 4 December 2009
WHERE? Primark's flagship store, 499 Oxford Street, London W1C 2QQ
WHAT? Anti-poverty campaigners - including Stacey Dooley from TV series Blood, Sweat and T-shirts - protest first outside the store and then go into the annual meeting of the retailer's parent company

'Kill off Doha' trade warning

26 November 2009 - 2:18pm

NEWS PEGS

  • Saturday, 28 November Geneva Anti-globalisation demonstration just before world trade ministers' summit
  • Monday, 30 November-Wednesday, 2 December 2009 Geneva World Trade Organisation ministerial talks
  • Monday, 30 November Tenth anniversary of protests at the global trade meeting, Seattle

WTO deal 'threatens millions of jobs'

Campaigners today warn that millions more people face poverty and unemployment if the current round of world trade negotiations are carried through to their conclusion. The alert comes from the anti-poverty charity War on Want as trade ministers prepare for the World Trade Organisation's summit in Geneva from Monday (30 November).

The summit marks the 10th anniversary of the collapse of the WTO summit in Seattle, where protestors and developing countries fought off pressure for a new trade round. Although the WTO launched a fresh round of negotiations in Doha two years later, those talks have collapsed again and again as wealthy nations have tried to force their free market agenda on developing countries while refusing to make meaningful cuts in their own farm subsidies.

War on Want executive director John Hilary said: "The WTO has failed to deliver. No amount of wishful thinking will transform it into a body that can offer solutions to the challenges facing our planet today. The Doha round should be abandoned without further delay, and a new process put in train to undo the damage already done by the WTO."

War on Want challenges recent claims made by WTO director general Pascal Lamy that concluding the Doha round will benefit poor people. According to the charity's research, completing the round would put 7.5 million workers at risk in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Mexico, Philippines, Tunisia and Uruguay, and millions more in other countries. It also cites a World Bank study which shows 80% of gains from the Doha round will go to high-income economies, and that the six countries of China, Thailand, India, Indonesia, Argentina and Brazil will reap almost all the rest. According to the charity, academic assessments now concur that the poorest countries will lose out as a result of the Doha round.

War on Want notes the global call for the immediate suspension of the WTO's financial services negotiations, which aim to further liberalise and deregulate financial markets despite wide opinion that such liberalisation has been a primary cause of the present crisis. War on Want also points to the commission set up by the United Nations under former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz, which has called for existing WTO restrictions on financial market regulation to be repealed.

War on Want's partners in the international farmers' movement have demanded a complete end to the WTO's agricultural negotiations, which threaten rural development and the livelihoods of small-scale farmers the world over. War on Want says the environmental case for halting the Doha round is just as urgent, with the "business as usual" approach advocated by the WTO sure to wipe out any gains from progress at the Copenhagen climate summit.

 


NOTES TO EDITORS

  • War on Want trade campaigns officer Dave Tucker will take part in the protest organised by Our World Is Not For Sale and Seattle to Brussels at 2.00 pm GMT on Saturday (28 November) in Place Neuve, rue de Hesse 8, 1204 Geneva
  • Dave can be reached in Geneva from tomorrow (Friday, 26 November) until Wednesday, 2 December on (+44) (0)7906 756863
  • War on Want executive director John Hilary can be reached in Geneva on Monday (30 November) and Tuesday (1 December) on (+44) (0)7983 550727
  • War on Want's research can be found here
  • The World Bank study can be downloaded here

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

New London store faces Primark storm

9 November 2009 - 3:55pm

NEWS PEG: Thursday, 12 November 2009 Primark opens its new London store

‘7p an hour sweatshop' factories spark protest
PICTURE/INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITY

WHAT?
As Britain's leading cheap fashion retailer launches a new London store, campaigners hang out Primark's "dirty washing" in public with a clothes line which cites poverty wages for its garment workers

WHY?
The charity War on Want says Bangladeshi workers making Primark clothes earn as little as 7p an hour

WHEN?
9.00 am GMT, Thursday 12 November 2009

WHERE?
Unit 57, The Mall, Wood Green Shopping City, High Road, London N22 6YQ


As Primark's new London store opens Thursday (12 November), anti-poverty campaigners will hang out the retailer's "dirty washing" in public with a clothes line that cites workers making its clothes for as little as 7p an hour.

The charity War on Want will stage a demonstration amid the store launch days after Primark announced a massive 20 per cent jump in sales to £2.3 billion for the year to 12 September and profits up 8 per cent to £252 million. It will compare Primark's growth with declining living standards among garment workers on poverty wages for up to 80-hour weeks in three Bangladeshi factories. The charity will also contrast the Wood Green store's 75,000 square feet on two floors with the tiny one-room slum homes Primark garment workers share with four or five family members.

War on Want campaigner Seb Klier said: ""Primark has just reported huge sales and profits. But for many Bangladeshis producing its clothes their grim living standards are falling even lower as costs rise. It is high time Gordon Brown introduced regulation to stop this abuse."

The charity is targeting the store opening in north London to step up the biggest-ever call for British government action to stop fashion retailers exploiting overseas workers. Thousands of people have already signed up to the Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign for 50,000 names demanding that Brown regulates the industry.

Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops is also endorsed by television star Jo Wood, pop singer Little Boots, actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Ashley Jensen and clothes designer Betty Jackson. Among other backers are TV personality Tony Robinson, actor-playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, comedians Jo Brand and Francesca Martinez and gardener Bob Flowerdew.

Supportive public figures include Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of Unite, the UK's largest trade union, Mary Turner, president of the GMB union, Queen's Counsel Michael Mansfield, the leading human rights lawyer, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, journalist John Pilger and cartoonist Martin Rowson.


NOTE TO EDITORS

According to War on Want research, workers making clothes for Primark in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka received on average only £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, under half a living wage. Some employees were paid only the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, far less than the £44.82 (5333 taka) needed to escape dire hardship. The vast majority of employees live 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. Ifat, who toils in a factory supplying all three retailers, said: "I can't feed my children three meals a day."

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

‘G20 heads for jobs, climate disaster'

5 November 2009 - 4:35pm

NEWS PEGS

Friday-Saturday, 6-7 November 2009

G20 finance ministers hold talks at St Andrews in Scotland

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Coalition representing over 10 million people, Put People First, including War on Want, other anti-poverty organisations, trade unions and development, environmental and faith groups, stages G20 counter conferences in London and St Andrews


Ministers warned of huge economic losses

British chancellor Alistair Darling and finance ministers from the world's leading economies are today accused of sticking to policies which threaten higher unemployment and climate chaos.

The anti-poverty charity War on Want says the ministers' talks in the Scottish town of St Andrews tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday will spell disaster if they maintain the same approach and policies that sparked the global economic crisis.

John Hilary, the charity's executive director, will propose alternative policies at a London counter conference on Saturday with speakers including Danish ex-prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, MP Jon Cruddas and Green party leader Caroline Lucas.

The conference has been organised by a coalition representing more than 10 million people, Put People First, including War on Want, other anti-poverty organisations, trade unions and development, environmental and faith groups.

The International Labour Organisation estimates this year will end with 239 million jobless people worldwide - up a third compared to the 2007 level - with youth unemployment rising by up to 18 million to 90 million.

War on Want calls for a crackdown on tax havens. Britain loses an estimated £100 billion a year in tax dodges - enough to avoid feared health service cuts. And unpaid tax costs the developing world £250 billion a year.

The charity, with Put People First, is also demanding greater investment in public services, new jobs through a green global economy and steep emission cuts for developed nations at the UN summit in Copenhagen next month.

Mr Hilary said: "The G20 finance ministers have failed to learn the lessons from the financial crisis. Instead, they are merely tweaking a system which continues to favour the rich at the expense of the poor. We need a radical response from the G20 - not more of the same."

Protestors from Put People First will march in St Andrews on Saturday to demand ministers adopt policies which prioritise people's needs over corporate greed.

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • The Put People First conference in London will take place from 10.00 am-5.30 pm on Saturday at Central Hall, Storey's Gate, Westminster, SW1H 9NH.
  • Campaigners from the coalition will stage a beach rally and picture opportunity on Saturday at St Andrews to show ministers' heads in the sand over the global economic crisis. The event will take place at 11.15 am at West Sands.
  • Activists will march at 12.30 pm from the beach to the university.
  • The alliance will hold a conference at the university from 1.30-6.00 pm. Speakers will include Kevin Dunion, rector of St Andrews University, Colin Hines, director of Finance for the Future and co-author of The Green New Deal, and Ugandan development campaigner Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe. The event will take place at St Andrews Students' Association, St Mary's Place, St Andrews KY16 9UZ.

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

New Primark store attacked on 'sweatshops'

5 November 2009 - 10:28am

NEWS PEG: Friday, 6 November 2009 Primark opens big new store in Cambridge


7p an hour protest targets Cambridge opening

Primark today came under fire for exploiting garment workers as Britain's leading cheap fashion retailer prepared to open its new Cambridge store.

This criticism, from anti-poverty charity War on Want, came in advance of the store's Burleigh Street launch tomorrow (Friday, 6 November). The charity unleashed its broadside amid Primark's announcement that the retailer made operating profits of £252 million in the year to 12 September - up 8 per cent - with sales 20 per cent higher at £2.3 billion.

War on Want claimed employees in three Bangladeshi factories toiled up to 80-hour weeks for as little as 7p an hour. It contrasts the three-floor Cambridge store's 54,000 square feet of space with the tiny one-room 100 square feet slum homes Primark garment workers share with four or five family members in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.

War on Want says Primark is cashing in on cheap fashion at the expense of garment workers by opening the Cambridge store and another next week at London's Wood Green in the run-up to Christmas. In addition, the retailer has earmarked a site for a new Edinburgh branch 30 per cent bigger than its original location. It is also reported to plan a massive store in a huge £675 million extension to a Cardiff shopping centre.

But while Primark stores climb towards the 200 mark in six countries, the charity warns that rising food prices are deepening poverty for its Bangladeshi garment workers.

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at the charity, said: "Primark is booming in the recession by keeping clothes prices so low at a terrible cost to its garment workers' living standards. Letting the retailers police themselves has failed to ensure workers decent pay and conditions. Now Gordon Brown must act to stop this abuse."

War on Want is making the biggest-ever call for British government action to stop fashion retailers exploiting overseas workers. Thousands of people have already signed up to the charity's Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign for 50,000 names demanding that Brown regulates the industry.

The push is also endorsed by television star Jo Wood, pop singer Little Boots, actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Ashley Jensen and clothes designer Betty Jackson. Among other backers are TV personality Tony Robinson, actor-playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, comedians Jo Brand and Francesca Martinez and gardener Bob Flowerdew. Supportive public figures include Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of Unite, the UK's largest trade union, Mary Turner, president of the GMB union, Safia Minney, director of fair trade fashion company People Tree, Queen's Counsel Michael Mansfield, the leading human rights lawyer, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, journalist John Pilger and cartoonist Martin Rowson.

People can add their names on the campaign's website at www.lovefashionhatesweatshops.org

NOTE TO EDITORS

According to War on Want research, workers making clothes for Primark in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka received on average only £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, under half a living wage. Some employees were paid only the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, far less than the £44.82 (5333 taka) needed to escape dire hardship. The vast majority of employees live 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. Ifat, who toils in a factory supplying all three retailers, said: "I can't feed my children three meals a day."

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

 

 

‘Sweatshops' attacked over Primark sales leap

2 November 2009 - 4:59pm

NEWS PEG: Tuesday, 3 November 2009 Primark expected to report strong growth in full-year figures

EMBARGO: 00.01 hrs GMT, Tuesday 3 November 2009


Britain's leading cheap fashion retailer, Primark, today faced accusations of cashing in on the recession by exploiting overseas workers producing its clothes.

Amid reports that the retailer this morning will announce 7-8 per cent growth, anti-poverty charity War on Want claimed employees in three Bangladeshi factories toiled up to 80-hour weeks for as little as 7p an hour.

This attack came as Primark prepared to open a new store in Cambridge on Friday (6 November) and another at Wood Green in London on 12 November. In addition, the retailer has also earmarked a site for a new Edinburgh branch 30 per cent bigger than its original location. It is also reported to plan a massive store in a huge £675 million extension to a Cardiff shopping centre. War on Want contrasts the store's 100,000 square feet of space with the tiny 100 square feet slum homes Primark garment workers share with four or five family members in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka. And while Primark nears almost 200 stores in five countries - profits last year grew 17 per cent to £233 million during the 12 months ending in September - rising food prices are deepening poverty for its Bangladeshi garment workers.

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at the charity, said: "Primark is booming in the recession by keeping clothes prices so low at a terrible cost to its garment workers' living standards. Letting the retailers police themselves has failed to ensure workers decent pay and conditions. Now Gordon Brown must act to stop this abuse."

The criticism from War on Want coincides with the biggest-ever call for British government action to stop fashion retailers exploiting overseas workers. Thousands of people have already signed up to the charity's Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign for 50,000 names demanding that Brown regulates the industry.

The push is also endorsed by television star Jo Wood, pop singer Little Boots, actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Ashley Jensen and clothes designer Betty Jackson. Among other backers are TV personality Tony Robinson, actor-playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, comedians Jo Brand and Francesca Martinez and gardener Bob Flowerdew. Supportive public figures include Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of Unite, the UK's largest trade union, Mary Turner, president of the GMB union, Safia Minney, director of fair trade fashion company People Tree, Queen's Counsel Michael Mansfield, the leading human rights lawyer, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, journalist John Pilger and cartoonist Martin Rowson.

People can add their names on the campaign's website at www.lovefashionhatesweatshops.org


NOTE TO EDITORS

According to War on Want research, workers making clothes for Primark in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka received on average only £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, under half a living wage. Some employees were paid only the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, far less than the £44.82 (5333 taka) needed to escape dire hardship. The vast majority of employees live 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. Ifat, who toils in a factory supplying all three retailers, said: "I can't feed my children three meals a day."

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

 

'Keep pressure on Honduras' call to EU

28 October 2009 - 1:01pm

NEWS PEG: Four months on since the military coup in Honduras

7p an hour protest targets Primark

27 October 2009 - 5:25pm

NEWS PEG: Thursday, 12 November 2009 Primark opens its new London store

Storm over 'sweatshops' faces new store

Primark opens its new London store next month amid claims that Britain's leading cheap fashion retailer is expanding by exploiting overseas garment workers.

The Wood Green store launches on 12 November as a charity warns that people making Primark clothes earn as little as 7p an hour.

War on Want plans to protest when Primark opens its doors at the Mall, known as Shopping City, in the High Road. It compares Bangladeshi workers' poverty pay for up to 80-hour weeks with the retailer's 21 per cent sales growth in the 16 weeks to 20 June and 10 per cent rise in profits to £122 million during the six months ending in February. The charity also contrasts the store's 75,000 square feet of space on two floors with the tiny 100 square feet slum homes Primark garment workers share with four or five family members.

War on Want is targeting the Wood Green opening to step up the biggest-ever call for British government action to stop fashion retailers exploiting overseas workers. Thousands of people have already signed up to the Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign for 50,000 names demanding that UK prime minister Gordon Brown regulates the industry.

The push is also endorsed by television star Jo Wood, pop singer Little Boots, actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Ashley Jensen and clothes designer Betty Jackson. Among other backers are TV personality Tony Robinson, actor-playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, comedians Jo Brand and Francesca Martinez and gardener Bob Flowerdew.

Supportive public figures include Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of Unite, the UK's largest trade union, Mary Turner, president of the GMB union, Queen's Counsel Michael Mansfield, the leading human rights lawyer, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, journalist John Pilger and cartoonist Martin Rowson.

War on Want campaigner Seb Klier said: "By the end of the year Primark will have grown to almost 200 stores in five countries. But for many Bangladeshis producing its clothes their grim living standards are falling even lower as costs rise. It is high time Brown introduced regulation to stop this abuse."

According to War on Want research, workers making clothes for Primark in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka received on average only £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, under half a living wage. Some employees were paid only the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, far less than the £44.82 (5333 taka) needed to escape dire hardship. The vast majority of employees live 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.

Lina earns just £16 (1850 taka) a month, toiling 12 hours a day producing clothes for Primark.

"It is not enough," she said. "I can only afford to live in one room with my husband, two-year-old boy and mother-in-law."

Ifat, who also works toils in a Primark factory, said: "I can't feed my children three meals a day."


NOTE TO EDITORS: The War on Want protest will take place from 9.00-10.00 am outside Primark's new store at Unit 57, The Mall, 159 High Road, Wood Green, London N22 6YQ

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

Jo Wood steps up sweatshops war

23 October 2009 - 12:00am

Star picture boosts largest ethical fashion drive

Television star Jo Wood today put her best foot forward by joining Britons who have posed for photographs to support the biggest-ever call for British government action to stop fashion retailers exploiting overseas workers.

She boosted a drive for 50,000 names demanding that UK prime minister Gordon Brown regulates the industry.

The former model, who now runs a business selling organic skin care products, features among thousands of people already signed up to the Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign run by the anti-poverty charity War on Want.

Jo was shocked by garment workers' hardship when she visited the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka with fair trade fashion company People Tree.

She said: "The conditions that they lived in in the slums were appalling: the rubbish, the smell and the poverty. Up to six people live in a tin room on bamboo stilts above heaps of rubbish. Yet I was humbled by the people and their attitudes."

Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at War on Want, said: "Our charity is thrilled Jo spared us the time from her busy schedule to pose for a photograph and indebted to her for such commitment to this cause. We hope many others will follow her example."

People can add their names and pictures on the campaign's website at http://www.lovefashionhatesweatshops.org

According to War on Want research, workers making clothes for Primark, Tesco and Asda factories in Dhaka received on average only £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, under half a living wage. Some employees were paid only the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, far less than the £44.82 (5333 taka) needed to escape dire hardship.

The vast majority of employees live 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.

Lina earns just £16 (1850 taka) a month, toiling 12 hours a day producing Tesco clothes.

"It is not enough," she said. "I can only afford to live in one room with my husband, two-year-old boy and mother-in-law."

Ifat, who toils in a factory supplying Primark, Tesco and Asda, said: "I can't feed my children three meals a day."

The Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops push is also endorsed by pop singer Little Boots, actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Ashley Jensen and clothes designer Betty Jackson.

Among other backers are television personality Tony Robinson, actor-playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, comedians Jo Brand and Francesca Martinez and gardener Bob Flowerdew.

Supportive public figures include Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of Unite, the UK's largest trade union, Mary Turner, president of the GMB union, Queen's Counsel Michael Mansfield, the leading human rights lawyer, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, journalist John Pilger and cartoonist Martin Rowson.

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

‘Licence to kill for private armies’

19 October 2009 - 5:59pm

NEWS HOOK

London - Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Ex-British defence and home secretary John Reid - now group consultant to G4S, including ArmorGroup, which is hired by the UK government in Afghanistan - addresses the annual conference of the British Association of Private Security Companies

EMBARGO: 00.01 hrs, Tuesday 20 October 2009


Government condemned for failure to regulate private military and security companies

WHEN? 8.45-9.15 am BST, Tuesday, 20 October 2009

WHERE? Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD (nearest Tube stations: Great Portland Street, Regents Park and Oxford Circus)

WHAT? A campaigner dressed as Gordon Brown will hand over money to "armed" mercenaries, as War on Want protests against the government's failure to regulate private military and security companies.

War on Want today condemned the British government for giving UK private military and security companies a licence to kill by refusing to regulate the industry. Campaigners from the charity will demonstrate this morning outside the annual conference of the British Association of Private Security Companies which takes place in central London.

War on Want will protest against government plans to let private military and security companies police themselves, despite widespread human rights abuses by mercenary troops. The demonstration comes as the government is due to announce the outcome of consultation on its proposal for a voluntary code of conduct overseen by the BAPSC, the industry body.

A keynote speech at the conference will be made by John Reid, the former UK defence and home secretary, now a £50,000 group consultant to G4S, including ArmorGroup, hired by the British government in Afghanistan and Iraq. ArmorGroup hit the headlines in August when one of its contractors shot and killed two colleagues in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

The protest takes place only days after the second anniversary of an incident in Iraq when guards from the British private military and security firm Erinys International fired on a taxi, badly wounding three Iraqi civilians near Kirkuk.

Amid hundreds of cases of human rights abuse by mercenaries, War on Want is spearheading the campaign for tough legislation, including a ban on their use in combat and combat support. The charity is calling for all PMSCs to be subjected to individual parliamentary approved licences. It is also demanding for any government ministry which outsources a service to a PMSC to be held responsible for the firm's conduct and for all allegations of human rights abuses by contractors working for PMSCs to be independently investigated.

As the war in Afghanistan escalates and UK prime minister Gordon Brown prepares to send more British troops to the country, War on Want warns that the government is spending millions of pounds on PMSCs and risking civilian lives in Afghanistan by failing to regulate the industry.

Yasmin Khan, senior campaigns officer at the charity, said: "The government has ignored all regulatory options in favour of a voluntary code of conduct for private armies. This is giving a licence to kill to private military and security companies. The proposed voluntary code of conduct flies in the face of the growing consensus on the need to regulate this deadly industry. More lives in war zones will be put at risk unless the government acts to regulate private armies now."

The UK government has spent £148 million on PMSC contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last three years. The government currently has contracts with PMSCs in Afghanistan worth more than £42 million from the beginning of 2008 to the end of this year, more than twice the figure for Iraq in the same period.

With Britain having the second largest PMSC industry in the world. UK private military and security firms now operating in Afghanistan include Olive, PAGE associates, Saladin Security, AEGIS, ArmorGroup, Blue Hackle, Control Risks Group, Edinburgh International, Global Security and IDG Security.


NOTE TO EDITORS:

  • The BAPSC was established in 2006 as an industry association body that works to promote the interests of private military and security companies. The conference will also hear keynote addresses from the former Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Andy Hayman and Sir Jeremy Greenstock ex-UK special representative to Iraq
  • Earlier this year the government published a consultation on its proposed voluntary code for PMSCs. It has so far failed to announced the results of the consultation.

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

 

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