‘Poverty clothes shame Primark'

5 December 2008 - 12:00am

Retailer thrives on 7p an hour workers.

NEWS HOOK: Friday, 5 December 2008 Annual meeting of Primark's parent company, Associated British Foods
EMBARGO: 00.01 hrs GMT, Friday, 5 December 2008

Workers producing clothes for Primark face growing poverty on as little as 7p an hour for up to 80-hour weeks. But they are helping Britain's most popular cheap fashion retailer beat the recession, the charity War on Want reveals today.

War on Want warns that Primark is ignoring rising basic living costs as employees making garments in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka are now worse off than two years ago, when the charity first exposed their hardship. War on Want contrasts the retailer's 17 per cent profits jump to £233 million during the 12 months ending in September this year with employees on the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, and all of them earning far less than a living wage. Amid high inflation and increasing fuel costs in Bangladesh, the price of low-quality rice has rocketed by 70 per cent. And prices of other cooking items, including oil, onions, pulses, wheat and flour, have soared by 30-60 per cent. 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. Yet average workers' pay, £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, is less than half a living wage. The vast majority of employees live in small, crowded shacks, many of which lack plumbing and adequate washing facilities. War on Want will stage a protest outside Primark's flagship store in London's Oxford Street this morning with its researcher Khorshed Alam, who has flown to the UK from Bangladesh. Campaigners from the charity and Alam will then go into the annual meeting of Primark's parent company, Associated British Foods, to speak out against its sweatshops. The report also reveals similar pay and conditions for Dhaka employees making clothes for Asda, Britain's second-largest clothing retailer by volume, and Tesco, the UK's biggest supermarket fashion chain. Ifat, who toils in a factory supplying all three retailers, said: “I can't feed my children three meals a day.” Runa, who makes Asda and 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.” 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 suffer verbal and physical abuse as they struggle to meet unrealistic targets. Primark, Asda and Tesco all claim to respect the rights of its garment suppliers to join and form trade unions. But Dhaka workers said none of their factories was unionised. War on Want is demanding that the British government introduce regulation which ensures a living wage for overseas suppliers and allows exploited staff to seek justice in UK courts. Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at the charity, said: “Primark, Asda and Tesco promise a living wage for their garment makers. But workers are actually worse off than when we exposed their exploitation two years ago. The UK government must bring in effective regulation to stop British companies profiting from abuse.” NOTES TO EDITORS

  • Researchers interviewed 115 workers from six factories during August and September.
  • War on Want will demonstrate from 9.00 am (opening time) until 10.00 am on Friday, 5 December outside Primark's flagship store at 499-517 Oxford Street, near Park Street, London W1K 7DA (Marble Arch Tube). Anti-poverty campaigners will protest with Khorshed Alam, the Bangladeshi who led the research.
  • War on Want campaigners and Alam will attend the annual meeting of Primark's parent company, Associated British Foods, to speak out against its sweatshops. The meeting will take place at 11.00 am on Friday, 5 December at the TUC, Congress Centre, 28 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS.

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


MEPs urged to oppose EU-Israel relations upgrade

3 December 2008 - 12:00am

Human rights abuses condemned



  • 6.00-7.00 pm GMT, Wednesday, 3 December 2008 - Members of the European parliament debate proposals to advance the EU's trade relationship with Israel
  • 1.00-2.00 pm GMT, Thursday, 4 December 2008 MEPs vote on the proposals

The British anti-poverty charity War on Want today urged members of the European parliament to vote against EU moves to strengthen links with Israel over its human rights abuses.

The alert comes as MEPs prepare for a Brussels debate this evening (Wednesday, 3 December) on plans to upgrade the EU's relations with Israel beyond the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which at present gives Israel preferential treatment on trade deals. This new protocol of cooperation will enable far greater Israeli participation in European Community programmes. War on Want urges them to oppose these steps as Israel's ongoing illegal occupation has meant that millions of Palestinians are living with human rights abuse and crushing poverty in refugee camps or under occupation. The EU must suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement in order to bring pressure on Israel to abide by international law. Article 2 of the Agreement makes Israel's trading preferences conditional upon respect for human rights, a condition which UN specialists say has been breached by Israel on many occasions.

John Hilary, the charity's executive director – available for interview today in London and tomorrow in Brussels - said: “Far from upgrading relations with Israel, the EU should suspend the Association Agreement as Israel has flouted its conditions. Millions of Palestinians are paying a terrible price for the illegal occupation. Rather than telling Israel it can count on the EU's political and economic backing, irrespective of its treatment of the Palestinian people, it is high time the EU put real pressure on Israel to end the Palestinians' torment. The EU must press Israel to abide by international law, stop defying UN resolutions, and dismantle the infrastructure of the occupation, including the illegal wall and settlements."

In a briefing paper, War on Want cites millions of Palestinians living with human rights abuse and crushing poverty in refugee camps or under occupation.

One of them, Hanni Ammar, saw his livelihood destroyed and property stolen when the illegal Separation Wall was built near to his home and business in the West Bank village of Mas'ha.

Mr Ammar commented on Israeli soldiers: "They have said that if my children go near the wall, they will shoot them. The settlers also regularly harass us, throwing stones from behind the fence without warning. One of my children got hit in the face, so he needed stitches. I am an example of someone who is suffering day by day, and reflect the suffering of the Palestinian people."

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

Campaigners spoof executives battling for giant contracts at Iraq oil fair

28 November 2008 - 12:00am

Picture opportunity


9am, Monday December 1 2008


Iraq Petroleum 2008, Millennium Hotel, 18 Harrington Gardens, London SW7


Conference attendees: Including Shell, BP, and Exxon executives plus Iraqi ministry of oil representatives. Protestors: Hands Off Iraqi Oil coalition

As Iraq's biggest oil fields go under the hammer at the Iraq Petroleum 2008 conference [1], protestors impersonate top executives in a mock auction outside, complete with giant secret contract.

Activists from Hands Off Iraqi Oil will protest the auction of eight of Iraq's major oil and gas fields [2] through secret contracts.

Shell, BP, Lukoil and Crescent Petroleum executives will be spoofed outside the first major commercial oil and gas conference to be held in London since 2004. [3]

The Iraq Petroleum 2008 event comes in the wake of a historical first licensing round in October, also held in London, covering 40% of Iraq's known reserves and accounting for 90% of all export revenue.

A second licensing round will be held in December where a further 40% of Iraq's reserves will be available for private control.

The contracts currently on the table - Risk Service Contracts - will last 20 years. [4] The deals remain shrouded in secrecy, despite calls by Iraqi experts, technocrats and civil society to render them open to public scrutiny. [5] The Iraqi cabinet recently approved a $4bn no-bid gas deal with Shell which has been criticized by the Iraqi parliamentary oil and gas committee. [6]

Ewa Jasiewicz, of Hands Off Iraqi Oil, said: "These deals are not about investment and reconstruction, they're about private corporate control over the third largest reserves and last bastion of conventional oil on the planet. Their signing may be a political legacy issue for Bush and Cheney, but the legacy of injustice, foreign control and an economy wedded to the oil industry will disempower generations of Iraqis to come."

Gabriel Carlyle, from Voices UK, said: "These secret deals could sign Iraq's sovereignty away with a pen's stroke. If signed, they could lock in both dictatorship and occupation law, leading to increased conflict, human rights violations and economic dispossession. They represent yet another injustice against the Iraqi people and should be torn up."

CONTACT: Ewa Jasiewicz, Hands Off Iraqi Oil 07749 421 576



[2] The eight fields are Rumeila, Zubair, Qurna West, Maysan, Kirkuk and Bay Hassan - all oil fields - and Akkas and Mansouriya Gas fields

[3] Linda Cook, executive director, Gas & Power at Shell Trading, BP chief executive officer Tony Haywood, Luay Jawad, Crescent Petroleum Iraq country director and former Shell executive, and Vagit Alekperov, CEO of Lukoil.

[4] Risk Contracts explained - The real significance of the oil ministries bid round, Greg Muttitt

[5] Platform briefing on contracts, oil law and trade union opposition

[6] Iraqi law makers will challenge Shell gas deal

[7] Hands Off Iraqi Oil is a UK coalition opposing any foreign exploitation of Iraq's oil reserves that cheats the Iraqi people. Members include Corporate Watch, Iraq Occupation Focus, Jubilee Iraq, PLATFORM, Voices UK and War on Want. More information on the campaign is available at

UK ‘blocking progress' at UN summit

28 November 2008 - 12:00am

Brown isolated on development finance

Anti-poverty campaigners today attacked the UK government for attempting to prevent progress at the UN conference on financing for development which opens in Doha tomorrow (Saturday 29 November).

The charity War on Want criticised British prime minister Gordon Brown for blocking essential tax and finance initiatives which could help developing countries survive the global economic downturn.

The UK government is increasingly isolated in its position on tax cooperation, new sources of development finance and regulation of financial markets, according to War on Want.

The UK government has joined with tax havens such as Liechtenstein and Switzerland to oppose upgrading the UN tax committee, a key measure proposed for Doha by the G77 group of developing countries and supported by the majority of world governments.

Tax dodging by multinational corporations costs developing countries an estimated £250 billion a year in lost government revenue, enough to enable them to meet the anti-poverty UN Millennium Development Goals. War on Want warns that in the current economic climate developing countries need tax revenue more than ever to fund essential public services and anti-poverty programmes.

The EU council of ministers, under the presidency of the French government, has affirmed the importance of new sources of development finance, especially in light of the challenge of climate change. Yet Brown has consistently rejected a stamp duty on sterling currency transactions that would raise billions of pounds each year for development at no cost to UK taxpayers, says War on Want.

Despite pledges to meet the UN aid target of 0.7% of gross national income by 2013, the UK government's aid budget is still only 0.36% of GNI – lower than it was 30 years ago.

It is also clear that developing countries need to control their financial sectors in order to achieve stability. Instead, Brown is calling for further deregulation of financial services through world trade talks that would harm poor countries' ability to manage their own monetary sectors.

Ruth Tanner, Director of Campaigns and Policy at War on Want, said: “While the rest of the world struggles to put the global economy back together, Gordon Brown is blocking key initiatives which could make a real difference to the world's poor. The UK needs to come back in line with global efforts to fight poverty. Gordon Brown cannot be allowed to block progress on such important tax and finance measures.”

The International Conference on Financing for Development takes place in Doha, Qatar from Saturday 29 November to Tuesday 2 December. It will review progress since the first international conference on development finance held in Monterrey, Mexico in March 2002.

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

‘Brown blocking G20 progress on regulation'

14 November 2008 - 12:00am

Finance moves threaten poor, says War on Want

Friday, 14 November 2008 to Saturday 15 November 2008

Washington DC, United States

British premier Gordon Brown takes part in G20 summit of the world's richest economies on the global finance crisis

John Hilary, executive director of anti-poverty charity War on Want, comments below and is available for interview

John Hilary, executive director of the anti-poverty charity War on Want, says: “For all his claims to be leading the world out of the crisis, Brown could well be the one blocking progress at the G20 summit.

“Brown is resisting proposals that regulation of the financial sector should be anything more than a light touch.

“Instead, he aims to secure further deregulation of financial markets through his call for a swift conclusion to the current round of global trade talks. The UK government's main objective in these negotiations is the liberalisation of financial markets in emerging economies such as India, Brazil and Chile, with the aim of increasing business opportunities for UK financial service companies overseas.

“Britain is also attempting to hinder progress on international cooperation over tax dodging which costs developing countries £250 billion a year in lost government revenue.

“And the prime minister has obstructed moves to introduce a stamp duty on sterling currency transactions, which could raise billions each year for development.

“Brown has made much of his commitment to the fight against poverty. It is time for him to come clean on whether he supports restructuring international finance in the common interest or a return to casino capitalism.”

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

War on Want up for more awards

12 November 2008 - 12:00am

War on Want has been shortlisted for the consumer award in the world's first dedicated prizes for ethical fashion.

Judges have nominated the charity for this honour in the RE: Fashion Awards, organised by the group Anti-Apathy, the Ethical Fashion Forum and the communications agency Futerra.

The fair trade fashion company People Tree and the women's magazine Marie Claire are also on the short list.

The consumer prize is among the awards to celebrate action which has achieved positive change in the fashion sector.

War on Want is up for the honour through its campaign for a living wage for garment workers overseas producing clothes for British stores.

Its fashion push has also been shortlisted for the communications campaign prize in the magazine Third Sector's Excellence Awards.

This honour is for an innovative drive which has delivered its message to its target audience.

The others shortlisted are Help the Aged, Leonard Cheshire Disability, the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation, Sustrans and the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: “Our campaign has exposed the scandal that workers producing clothes for high street retailers face poor wages and conditions. There is now growing support for UK government regulation to ensure a living wage for these workers.”

Earlier this year War on Want helped Guardian reporter Karen McVeigh win the press honour in the One World Media Awards for her story on Bangladeshis paid 4p an hour to make clothes for Primark, Tesco and Asda.

The RE: Fashion Awards will be presented tomorrow at Shoreditch town hall in London.

And London's Hurlingham Club will host the Third Sector Excellence Awards on 18 November.

Last month War on Want secured fifth place among Britain's 190,000 charities in Third Sector's Most Admired Charity award, won by the Children's Society.

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

Brown pressed on 'global greed'

10 November 2008 - 12:00am

War on Want and other anti-poverty groups today pressed Gordon Brown to end his love affair with big business, with activists posing as a fat cat in bed with the British prime minister outside the Bank of England, and the charity's campaigner Nadia Idle as an alarm clock with the slogan 'Call time on global greed.

The protest came hours before Mr Brown gives a foreign policy speech to City business leaders tonight at the nearby Guildhall in the Lord Mayor of London's banquet.

And activists will stage a noise demonstration with bells and alarm clocks outside the Guildhall as Brown speaks.

The protesters represent a broad alliance of global poverty and environmental organisations representing more than nine million people, including War on Want, the Trade Justice Movement, the Jubilee Debt Campaign, the World Development Movement, ActionAid, CAFOD and the New Economics Foundation.

The coalition is urging Mr Brown to end his love affair with big business and push for a radically different global economic system that puts people and the planet first.

The protest comes ahead of a controversial G20 summit of leaders from the world's richest economies in Washington DC on Saturday (15 November) to discuss the financial crisis.

Campaigners are demanding that decisions about reform to the global economic system are made in a much more democratic forum that gives the poorest of the world a full and equal say.

The noise demonstration will take place from 6.30pm-7.30pm GMT today (Monday 10 November 2008) opposite the Guildhall, Gresham Street, London, EC2V 7PG.

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



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