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

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

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

 

 

7p an hour Primark workers ‘shame'

3 April 2009 - 3:37pm

INTERVIEW/PICTURE OPPORTUNITY

NEWS HOOK

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Anti-sweatshop campaigners demonstrate outside flagship Primark store on the eve of its second anniversary

WHEN? 2.30 pm BST, Saturday 4 April 2009

WHERE? Primark flagship store, 499-517 Oxford Street, London W1K 7DA

WHAT? Leading developing charity War on Want joins campaign group No Sweat as models weighted in chains stage a sweatshop fashion show outside the store


Chained models slave labour protest

The flagship store of Britain's most popular cheap fashion retailer Primark tomorrow faces a demonstration by chained models over its workers earning as little as 7p an hour for up to 80-hour weeks.

The models will stage a sweatshop fashion show outside the Oxford Street shop on the eve of its second anniversary.

This store sold one million items in its first ten days of trading and continues to flourish despite the recession.

And the retailer's profits jumped 17 per cent to £233 million during the 12 months ending in September.

Leading development charity War on Want will join campaign group No Sweat to spotlight the scandal that Bangladeshi employees making Primark clothes are worse off than two years ago when the store opened.

The latest War on Want report showed employees in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, and all of them earning far less than a living wage.

It cited average workers' pay as £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, less than half a living wage.

This contrasted with the retailer's 17 per cent profits jump to £233 million during the 12 months ending in September.

Employees calculated they need £44.82 (5333 taka) a month to give their family nutritious food, clean water, shelter, clothes, education, health care and transport.

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

And on Monday the UN warned that two million children in Bangladesh suffered from acute malnutrition due to food price hikes.

War on Want spokesman Paul Collins said: "Primark's flagship store is thriving with clothes at rock bottom prices while workers producing them face deeper poverty. Gordon Brown's claim that the G20 summit deal will tackle global poverty ignores the reality that UK companies such as Primark are trapping people overseas in dire hardship. Unless he regulates British firms, growing numbers of the poor will pay a terrible price for the world economic crisis."

NOTE TO EDITORS

The War on Want report can be downloaded here

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

G20 slammed for ‘shortsighted' deal

2 April 2009 - 5:50pm

NEWS HOOK

Thursday, 2 April 2009 G20 summit ends in London


Millions will suffer from summit failure, says charity

The anti-poverty charity War on Want today condemned Gordon Brown and other G20 leaders for throwing money at the global economic crisis rather than addressing its root causes.

According to War on Want, the G20 has used the London summit to resurrect the failed policies and institutions of the free market era, in a deal which prioritises short-term action at the expense of fundamental reform.

It called for a new world economic system based on principles of public benefit not private profit, achieved through democratic control and a fair redistribution of the fruits of globalisation.

War on Want executive director John Hilary said: "Millions of people will pay a high price for the G20's refusal to address the root causes of the current crisis.

"The world demanded a new economic system which puts the needs of people first. Instead the G20 have just thrown money at the failed institutions of the past."

War on Want said a stimulus package for the developing world is desperately needed. But the G20 decision to treble money available to the International Monetary Fund will resurrect an institution which lacks legitimacy and continues to impose crippling free market conditions on countries which turn to it for help.

The charity also attacked the G20 for its failure to take decisive action to close down tax havens. Tax dodging by corporations costs the UK economy £100 billion a year and deprives developing countries of an estimated £250 billion a year - money which could meet the UN anti-poverty goals several times over.

The charity warned that the G20 leaders' renewed insistence on a conclusion to the Doha world trade talks will deepen unemployment already soaring due to the global economic crisis. This puts 7.5 million workers at risk in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Mexico, Philippines, Tunisia and Uruguay, and millions more in other countries.

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


War on Want is a member of the Put People First alliance. Read the alliance's joint reaction to the  G20 communiqué.

 

 

War on Want in G20 City protest

31 March 2009 - 1:00am

Dead bird signals end of Canary Wharf system

Britain sells £27 million arms to Israel

30 March 2009 - 1:00am

NEWS HOOK

Monday, 30 March 2009

Global day of action for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel to mark Palestine Land Day, the annual commemoration of the 1976 Israeli killing of Palestinians in Galilee during a protest over land being snatched.

Calls to UK government to stop arming Israel

Revelations that in the first nine months of last year Britain licensed the sale of military equipment to Israel worth £27 million today brought a call for the UK government to stop arming Israel.

The call, from the charity War on Want, step up pressure over Israel's occupation to mark a global day of action for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. This initiative follows Israel's attack on Gaza which killed more than 1400 Palestinians, with children under 15 a third of the victims.

The admission that the UK government authorised lucrative trade in military equipment to Israel came in recent days from Lord Malloch-Brown, the British Foreign Minister, Lord Malloch-Brown, was answering questions from the crossbench peer Lord Hylton.

War on Want is calling for the British government to establish a two-way arms embargo on Israel.

Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at War on Want, said: "Despite continued human rights abuses against the Palestinian people, the UK government licenses millions of pounds' worth of military equipment to Israel every year. By selling arms to Israel the UK is giving direct material support for Israel's aggression and sending a clear message of approval for its actions."

War on Want says that over the last 60 years Israel has defied UN resolutions, international law and global outrage over its treatment of the Palestinian people. The continuing occupation has destroyed any semblance of a Palestinian economy.

Today 70 per cent of Palestinians live in crushing poverty and more than half rely on food aid to survive. And the international community has largely ignored UN law over Israel's crimes. Instead the British government among others has rewarded Israeli aggression with financial, military and diplomatic support.

Known export licences approved from Britain to Israel in 2008 include components for: combat aircraft, electronic warfare equipment, helmet mounted display equipment, military aero-engines, naval radars, surface-to-air missiles and equipment for the use of weapon sights and military communication. A significant number of UK components are used for missile triggering systems for Apaches and Head-Up Displays for F-16s and Israel has used F-16 fighter aircraft and Apache combat helicopters to bomb Lebanese and Palestinian towns and villages.

The British government has repeatedly admitted it does not accept Israeli assurances that British arms will not be deployed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Yet it continues to license such arms sales regardless.

In evidence to the parliamentary Quadripartite Committee in 2006, Foreign Office minister Kim Howells reaffirmed that it was government policy not to allow export of equipment or components which could be "deployed aggressively" in Palestinian territory, but then acknowledged that "almost any piece of equipment, I suppose, could be used aggressively".

War on Want says that since aircraft and tanks for which UK companies make components are regularly and obviously used aggressively against Palestinians, the government's practice appears to make its own export standards meaningless.


NOTE TO EDITORS: Link to the latest briefing from the coalition Stop Arming Israel which includes War on Want can be found here

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

Brown faces crisis march attack

27 March 2009 - 2:59pm

NEWS HOOK

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Put People First national demonstration on the global financial crisis before the G20 summit in London on 2 April


‘Free market greed hits millions'

Campaigners will demonstrate in London tomorrow (Saturday, 28 March) against British prime minister Gordon Brown's blueprint for the G20 summit which will cost millions of people their jobs and condemn hundreds of millions more to poverty.

They will call for a radical transformation of the economic system in the Put People First demonstration organised by development organisations, trade unions and environmental, women's and faith groups.

The charity War on Want accuses Brown of planning to push for more of the same free market policies that have already cost millions of jobs.

War on Want condemns Brown for continuing to defend the failed system of open markets and light-touch regulation and says that financial institutions cannot be trusted to deliver outcomes in the public interest.

War on Want Executive Director John Hilary: "The G20 is hell bent on preserving the system that has caused this economic meltdown. Thousands of protestors will call for a new system based on principles of public good not corporate power.

"Gordon Brown's free market fundamentalism will condemn millions more people to despair. The people of the world demand and deserve better."

The charity says Brown's call for a swift conclusion of the Doha trade round puts 7.5 million workers at risk in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Mexico, Philippines, Tunisia and Uruguay, and millions more in other rich and poor countries.

It cites growing unemployment as the International Labour Organisation forecasts over 50 million more people worldwide could lose their jobs by the end of this year, and 200 million workers fall into extreme poverty. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says that by next year jobless numbers in rich nations could rise by eight million to 42 million.

Unemployment in the UK has exceeded two million for the first time since 1997 after the biggest rise, 138,400, since records began in 1971, with some economists predicting the figure will reach 3.3 million late next year or early 2011.

War on Want is pressing Britain to end its support for the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund, which it says leave poor countries without a voice and seek to exploit the current turmoil by winning greater powers.

The charity also demands that Brown closes down UK tax havens which, it claims, play a leading part in developing countries losing an estimated £250 billion a year - money which could meet the UN anti-poverty goals several times over. Tax dodging and capital flight costs Africa an estimated £75 billion each year - five times what the continent receives in aid.

Many of the world's tax havens are British - overseas territories such as the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and British Virgin Islands or Crown Dependencies such as Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

War on Want says the City of London acts as the nerve centre for these tax havens and supports an army of pinstriped lawyers and accountants devoted to helping companies dodge tax.


NOTES TO EDITORS

  • John Hilary is available for interview
  • Protestors will assemble from 11.00 am GMT on Saturday (28 March 2009) at Victoria Embankment, London SW1. The march, which starts at 12.00 noon, will pass Brown's home in Downing Street en route to a rally from 2.30-4.30 pm in Hyde Park.

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

 

Brown G20 plan ‘will destroy jobs'

25 March 2009 - 12:01am

Millions face free trade axe - report

Millions of people will lose their jobs in developing countries and millions more in Europe under free trade plans to be promoted by British prime minister Gordon Brown next month at the G20 summit of the world's leading economies.

This warning comes today from the charity War on Want in the first-ever report to calculate the numbers of jobs lost globally in the wake of trade liberalisation and to analyse the impact of free trade on employment.

It comes at a time when global unemployment is already rising fast, with the International Labour Organisation forecasting over 50 million more people worldwide could lose their jobs by the end of this year, and 200 million workers fall into extreme poverty. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says that by next year jobless numbers in rich nations could rise by eight million to 42 million. And last week British unemployment rose above two million for the first time since 1997.

Now Brown's call to other G20 leaders to complete the Doha trade round puts 7.5 million workers at risk in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Mexico, Philippines, Tunisia and Uruguay, and millions more in other rich and poor countries, according to War on Want.

The new report - Trading Away Our Jobs - is launched three days before a national demonstration in the run-up to the G20 talks in London on 2 April.

War on Want Executive Director John Hilary said: "Our report exposes how trade liberalisation has thrown millions of people into grim poverty and threatens to devastate many further lives. Gordon Brown's free market fundamentalism will condemn millions to a bleak and jobless future. Instead of repeating the failed policies of the past, the prime minister and the other G20 leaders must put people first."

Following two decades of free market policies, 50 million more Africans are now trapped in poverty than in 1997.

Three in four workers in sub-Saharan Africa now face insecure employment as a result of three decades of neoliberal economics, with only a quarter in waged and salaried posts, according to the study. Four in five Zambian workers struggle to survive as street traders, 95 per cent of them earning only two dollars a day, and over three quarters less than a dollar a day.

Zambian tailor Matthews Nkhoma says of big foreign exporters: "Instead of bringing raw materials, they bring finished goods at a cheaper price. We cannot compete and have really lost out."

Malawi's real wages in manufacturing plunged by 73 per cent between 1990 and 1995. Trade liberalisation in the 1980s and 1990s also brought huge job losses in Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco and Zimbabwe.

During the free trade 1990s, the jobless in Latin America soared from 7.6 million to 18.1 million, with unemployment rises in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. Between the early 1990s and 2006, farming jobs in Mexico slumped from 8.1 million to around six million as a result of trade liberalisation. Now a third of all the region's workers face insecure employment.

NOTE TO EDITORS

Trading Away Our Jobs: How free trade threatens employment around the world 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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