South African Diary: Strengthening our partner's work

9 May 2009 - 12:00am

We started the day very early; the morning was chilly as the South African winter is approaching. Today our main aim is to assist our partner Sikhula Sonke with its financial systems and procedures. Prior to our visit, Sikhula Sonke staff had explained to us that they needed technical support to strengthen their internal financial procedures and provide transparency to members. In light of this need, War on Want's Finance Director carried out a training session with staff and helped the administrator to set up an action plan to follow throughout this year.


South African Diary: War on Want visits partners in South Africa

8 May 2009 - 12:00am

Sharing experiences, knowledge, skills and working in solidarity with partners in the global South is at the heart of War on Want's values. One of the ways in which we share with our partners is by visiting them, as well as the people they work with. Graciela Romero, International Programmes Director, writes about her experience visiting partners in South Africa.

The journey from the Cape Town airport to Stellenbosch town, where the headquarters of our partner Sikhula Sonke are located, made a deep impression on us as we passed by kilometres and kilometres of land occupied by people living in shack settlements. This landscape contrasted in a disturbing way with the wealth and infrastructure we saw in Stellenbosch.


‘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



Workers around the world celebrate May Day

1 May 2009 - 3:57pm

As the global economic crisis deepens, today workers from around the world are celebrating May Day. Laia Blanch, International Programmes Officer at War on Want, takes a look at how our partner organisations are marking this occasion.

At a time when the jobs and livelihoods of millions of workers have been lost due to the global meltdown, the celebration of May Day -- also known as International Workers' Day -- becomes not just a celebration, but an opportunity for people to express their discontent and demand a new system.

May Day is an important date for labour movements across the world -- it is a day both to celebrate the achievements of the movement and, most importantly, to raise awareness worldwide of workers' struggles and their demands for the recognition of their rights.

More than ever War on Want's partners are involved in advocacy and lobbying activities. From Asia to Latin America, War on Want partners are fighting to guarantee the livelihoods of millions of workers and their families despite the global economic meltdown, which has affected developing countries the most.

Our partner in Sri Lanka, the Free Trade Zones & General Service Employees Union (FTZGSEU), will use its May Day campaign to protest against labour law reform being promoted by factory employers that will significantly reduce workers' rights.

In Bangladesh, the National Garment Workers' Federation are organising a women workers' May Day rally in Dhaka and a Garment Workers' May Day rally in the Chitagoang, Narayangoang, Savar and Gazipur garment production areas.

In Central America, the Honduran Women's Collective (Codemuh) will participate in a large scale demonstration involving Honduran trade unions and grassroots organisations. Codemuh will use street theatre to raise awareness of the impact of aggressive sweatshop production operating at the expense of workers' health.

War on Want will celebrate May Day 2009 alongside and in solidarity with its partners on the ground and on the front line in the fight against poverty.

Giant new Primark store sparks row

30 April 2009 - 12:00am



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."


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

Comment is free: Miliband and the mercenaries

29 April 2009 - 12:25pm

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




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