News

Tesco clothes ‘sweatshops' attacked

2 July 2009 - 1:48pm

NEWS HOOK: Britain's largest retailer Tesco holds its annual meeting in Glasgow


Campaign targets £3bn profits retailer's AGM

Britain's largest retailer Tesco today comes under fire over 7p an hour garment workers in Bangladesh as shareholders prepare to hail the company's record £3 billion profits at its annual meeting.

The charity War on Want cited research which reveals employees toiling up to 80 hours a week making Tesco clothes in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka for as little as 1663 taka (£14) a month.

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

In the three Tesco factories researched, average workers' pay, £20 (2280 taka) a month, is less than half a living wage.

Most employees live in small, crowded shacks, many of which lack plumbing and adequate washing facilities.

Runa, who produces Tesco clothes, is one of many young women forced by poverty to leave her rural home to earn money to send back to her family.

She said: "My pay is so meagre that I cannot afford to keep my child with me. I have sent my five-month old baby to the village to be cared for by my mother."

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

Though compulsory 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 suffer verbal and physical abuse as they struggle to meet unrealistic targets

War on Want contrasts Tesco's claim to respect the rights of its garment suppliers to join and form trade unions with the charity's study which revealed that none of the Dhaka factories investigated was unionised.

War on Want adds that Tesco has signed up to a code of conduct under the Ethical Trading Initiative which commits the retailer to pay garment workers living wages, support freedom of association and collective bargaining, and to ban harsh treatment and excessive working hours.

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "While Tesco has smashed all records with more than £3 billion profits, it is also breaking promises to ensure a living wage and decent conditions for its garment workers. Tesco cannot be trusted to keep its word. The British government must act to stop this abuse."

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

NOTE TO EDITORS: Tesco's annual meeting will take place at 10.30 am on Friday (3 July) in the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, Exhibition Way, Finnieston, Glasgow G3 8YW.

‘Rich countries snub poor'

25 June 2009 - 4:56pm

NEWS HOOK: Friday, 26 June 2009 UN summit on world financial crisis ends in New York


UK helps block radical UN response to finance crisis

Millions of people in developing and developed countries face growing hardship after Britain with other rich European countries and the US blocked a radical UN response to the global financial crisis.

This warning comes today from the anti-poverty charity War on Want amid the UN summit on the crisis in New York.

The charity said the summit communiqué expected to be adopted in full tomorrow made significant references to fundamental issues such as debt, tax, aid conditionality and regulation.

It added that the document would also include the important recognition that poor countries are not to blame for a crisis which is hitting them hardest.

But the communiqué fails to agree action on the urgent progressive changes needed to transform the global economy. Instead it declares a commitment to more of the same policies that War on Want argues led to the crisis.

The document calls for the conclusion of the Doha round of trade negotiations - a move that War on Want says would deepen unemployment already soaring due to the crisis.

The charity says that conclusion of the Doha round threatens 7.5 million workers in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, Tunisia and Uruguay, and millions more in other countries.

In a report to the conference, a UN commission led by Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz cited the role trade has played as a cause of the crisis.

Among his proposals, Stiglitz argued the need for the world economic system to undergo a major transformation.

Yet the communiqué ignores the report's key proposal - a powerful global economic coordination council within the UN to bring more just and sustainable change than offered by the World Bank, IMF and World Trade Organisation.

Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at War on Want, said: "Wealthy countries like Britain have tried to block UN proposals for radical action on the global economy and used the summit to reaffirm support for a failed free market agenda. Millions of the world's poor people face worse hardship so long as rich nations dictate the rules of the global economy."

According to War on Want, before the conference the UK and other western governments tried to water down proposals with moves including threats of a boycott and publicly rubbishing the summit. The charity also pointed to signs that the UK had pressed developing countries to downgrade their own support for the conference. British premier Gordon Brown refused to send a cabinet minister to the event, but will attend the G8 summit in July, which War on Want brands outdated and elitist.

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

Brown told: ‘Rich don't have the answers to the crisis'

22 June 2009 - 11:44am

NEWS HOOK

UN summit, 24-26 June, New York

G8 summit, 8-10 July, Italy


Criticism of prime minister's commitment to a ‘new politics' as he shuns the UN but attends the G8

Campaigners today criticised Gordon Brown for refusing to send a cabinet minister to the United Nations summit on the economic crisis (1), but personally attending the 'outdated and elitist' G8 meeting in July.

War on Want, Jubilee Debt Campaign and the World Development Movement argue that as the vast majority of the world's countries are not invited to the G20 or G8 meetings, the UN summit is vital in enabling those least responsible for the crisis to make fair and effective decisions on the future of the world economy.

A commission, chaired by Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, has already devised a series of radical recommendations for global economic reform. But the three organisations claim the UK and other western governments have been trying to water down proposals, including threats of boycott and public rubbishing of the summit. They say there are signs that Britain has been putting pressure on developing countries to downgrade their own support for the summit. And UN diplomats have revealed that UK government officials have been visiting developing country capitals in order to "persuade" them not to send high ranking officials to the UN conference.

Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at War on Want, said: "Brown is determined to see off calls for regulation and continue on the path of free market fundamentalism at all costs. The UK government has made no secret of its efforts to rubbish the UN process. Alarmingly, it now looks like the government is also going out of its way to undermine the involvement of developing countries as well."

Nick Dearden, the Jubilee Debt Campaign director, said: "If we're ever going to see a more just economy, the prime minister and other western leaders need to start listening to the majority of the world. It's surely become apparent over the last 12 months that the rich don't have the answers. If we need to clean up politics in the UK, it's needed even more internationally, where the rule of the richest is still taken for granted."

Vicky Cann, campaigns officer at the World Development Movement, said: "The G8 is an outdated and elitist forum. The G20 is still unrepresentative and did not generate the radical ideas needed to make the global economy work for people and the planet. The focus on pushing free trade and rushing through the WTO Doha trade deal is a smokescreen behind which rich governments are hiding to keep big business happy. The World Bank, IMF and WTO need to be radically reformed and ideally replaced - not given more power over those countries which did nothing to create this crisis, but which are suffering most from it."

Campaigners are particularly anxious that the summit agrees that transformative, structural change to the global economy is needed, not simply tinkering at the edges. Particular support is given to professor Stiglitz's proposals for:

  • a powerful global economic coordination council within the UN, which would bring a more just and sustainable form of global economic coordination than is currently offered by the World Bank, IMF and World Trade Organisation.
  • a debt restructuring mechanism, leading to cancellation of unpayable and illegitimate developing country debt.
  • an end to the practice of forcing economic policies on developing countries, and radical reform of international financial institutions and the WTO.
  • new arrangements for a global reserve currency to replace the dollar.

Campaigners are also calling for climate change to be tackled through the UN and fear the G8 will pre-empt an international discussion at Copenhagen in December.


CONTACTS

Paul Collins, War on Want media officer (+44) (0)7983 550728

Nick Dearden, Jubilee Debt Campaign (+44) (0)7932 335464

Kate Blagojevic, World Development Movement media office (+44) (0)7711 875345

NOTE TO EDITORS

1. United Nations Conference on the Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development on 24-26 June in New York City.

     

    ‘UK must end sweatshops exploitation'

    17 June 2009 - 3:59pm

    NEWS HOOK

    London, 6.30 pm, Wednesday 17 June 2009

    Bangladeshi garment workers leader attacks Primark, Tesco and Asda over exploitation


    7p an hour workers spark unions call

    British prime minister Gordon Brown tonight (Wednesday) faces mounting pressure to stop UK retailers exploiting people who make their clothing overseas.

    Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers' Federation, a Bangladeshi trade union, will speak out in London over Primark, Tesco and Asda employees paid as little as 7p an hour for up to 80-hour weeks.

    Haque will tell a public meeting: "British companies demand factories produce their cheap, good-quality clothes to meet fast fashion deadlines. But they ignore the lack of a living wage, proper overtime rates, paid maternity leave and union rights. The UK government must act to halt this abuse."

    The meeting has been organised by the federation's partner, anti-poverty charity War on Want.

    Its latest sweatshops report attacked Primark, Tesco and Asda over growing hardship for their garment workers. All of the employees interviewed earned far below the living wage of £44.82 (5333 taka) a month.

    War on Want says British ministers should regulate UK retailers as the charity publishes new evidence that the Bangladeshi government is failing to enforce labour regulations on issues such as pay and trade union rights.

    The evidence,  in a briefing containing new research , including interviews with over 1200 garment workers, has been produced by the charity, the federation and the Alternative Movement for Resources and Freedom Society.

    In addition, the briefing shows how the Bangladeshi government fails to implement employees' rights. These include pay, overtime wages, working hours, days off, paid holidays, health and safety, union rights and freedom from bosses' abuse.

    Hana Begum, a Bangladeshi garment worker blacklisted by employers with other activists after a strike over layoffs and reduced benefit, will also address the meeting. Begum's decade in the garment industry still leaves her too poor to raise her six-year-old son Mehemedi, who lives with his grandmother 60 miles away.

    NOTE TO EDITORS: The meeting will take place from 6.30-7.45 pm today (Wednesday 17 June) at Development House, 56-64 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4LT. Besides Amin and Begum, other speakers will be War on Want executive director John Hilary, Graciela Romero, the charity's international programmes dir ector, and Niaz Alam, from London Pensions and Unite. Admission is free.

    CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)207 549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

     

     

    Miliband pressed on Israel trade agreement

    12 June 2009 - 2:46pm

    NEWS HOOK
    Monday, 15 June-Tuesday 16 June 2009
    European ministers meet in Brussels on proposals to upgrade political and trade links with Israel


    War on Want calls for sanctions over human rights

    British foreign secretary David Miliband today faces pressure to call for the suspension of an agreement which gives Israel preferential trade deals with the European Union.

    The pressure comes from the anti-poverty charity War on Want, which says Israel's continuing aggression and human rights abuses in Gaza and the West Bank disqualifies it from trading preferences granted under the EU-Israel Association Agreement.

    European foreign ministers will hold talks next week with far-right Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman to discuss the possible upgrading of EU-Israel relations.

    Yasmin Khan, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "The intensification of Israel's aggression and its increased human rights abuses against Palestinians mean that any upgrade of EU-Israel relations is unacceptable. As the people of Gaza enter the third year of a devastating Israeli blockade the EU-Israel Association Agreement must be suspended immediately until Israel complies with human rights law."

    The meeting with Lieberman will take place during a gathering of the EU-Israeli Association Council in Brussels on Monday (15 June) and Tuesday (16 June).

    These talks coincide with the second anniversary of the start of Israel's blockade of Gaza, and come five months after the Israeli assault on Gaza which left over 1,400 Palestinian dead, including hundreds of children.

    War on Want argues Israel's human rights abuses have worsened since the EU began the process to upgrade relations with Israel last June.

    It says:
    *the Gaza blockade has been tightened, with vital commodities denied entry and people forced to live like prisoners.
    *the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank has accelerated.
    *the number of illegal checkpoints has increased from 602 last June to 632 in March.

    In December the EU council said any upgrade "must be based on the shared values of both parties, particularly on democracy, respect for human rights, the rule of law and fundamental freedom, good governance and international humanitarian law."

    War on Want is calling on Miliband to confirm the suspension of the upgrade, demand an immediate end to the Gaza blockade and suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement until Israel observes international humanitarian law and human rights.

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

    Firm halts rail work for Israel settlers

    9 June 2009 - 3:34pm

    Campaigners' breakthrough on Veolia hailed

    The anti-poverty charity War on Want today welcomed reports that French company Veolia has abandoned the $500 million rail project linking Jerusalem and illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

    War on Want hailed the news as a significant victory for campaigners who have exposed companies that are complicit in Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine.

    Yasmin Khan, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "The end of Veolia's involvement is an important victory for the International campaign to win justice for the Palestinian people. It sends a clear message to other companies profiting from Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine that their complicity will be challenged."

    The charity's report Profiting from the Occupation in 2006 exposed the role of Veolia in the rail project.

    Veolia has waste management contracts with local governments and university across the UK.

    The rail project, due for completion by 2020, is set to run from west Jerusalem to the major Israeli settlements of French Hill, Neve Ya'akov and Pisgat Ze'ev, with further lines to settlements such as Gilo, near Bethlehem, and Ramot.

    The Israeli government has openly stated that the project will help complete the annexation of East Jerusalem.

    The Veolia move comes only days after US president Barack Obama called on Israel to cease building settlements, which, he said, violate earlier agreements and undermine peace efforts.

    Next week UK foreign secretary David Miliband will join other ministers for Brussels talks on European Union proposals to upgrade political and trade links with Israel.

    Miliband faces heavy pressure to oppose the upgrade after Israel's onslaught on Gaza.

    War on Want has repeatedly called for an end to the EU-Israel ugrade.

    NOTE TO EDITORS

    The European Council meeting which Miliband will attend takes place on Monday (15 June) and Tuesday (16 June).

    CONTACT

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

     

     

    ‘EU policies deepen jobs crisis'

    7 May 2009 - 3:21pm

    NEWS HOOK: Thursday, 7 May 2009 European jobs summit, Prague


    European leaders are today accused of promoting free market policies that will lead to more job loses in the EU and the rest of the world.

    The accusation comes from the British charity War on Want, in response to an EU summit held in Prague today (Thursday, 7 May) that was supposed to tackle the impact of the global economic crisis on employment in Europe.

    War on Want's latest research, Trading Away Our Jobs, was 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. The report highlights how free trade agreements have already caused tens of millions of job losses over the last 20 years.

    War on Want trade campaigns officer, Dave Tucker, said: "For decades, the EU has consistently pursued trade policies that have caused mass unemployment around the world and led us to financial meltdown. Now European workers are feeling the impact of these free trade policies. The EU must wake up and refocus on the needs of European people, not its corporations."

    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. The report says these same policies will also create millions of jobless people in Europe itself.

    According to the charity, recent judgements by the European Court of Justice have also undermined fundamental workers' rights, allowing companies to play workers from different countries off against each other.

    The summit 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.

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

     

     

    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

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