'Sweatshops shame' fashion alert

8 February 2008 - 2:27pm
Press release

This warning comes from the anti-poverty charity War on Want, which attacks government inaction despite a series of scandals that have exposed British retailers profiting from clothes made by foreign garment workers on poverty pay.

The alert is signalled just before industry leaders unveil new styles in London Fashion Week, opening on Sunday (10 February).

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "These scandals betray a systemic problem which shames Britain?s fashion industry - garment workers in developing countries toiling long hours to produce their clothes for a few pence an hour. The industry has failed to clean up its act. Now the UK government must legislate to stop this widespread abuse."

War on Want lists these scandals over the last year:

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  • January 2008

    New evidence from the Garment and Textile Workers? Union in India reveals that employees producing clothes for Matalan, H & M and MK One are denied a living wage, £54 a month - enough to meet their bills for housing, food and healthcare. They receive only £38 a month - less than three-quarters of a living wage. The evidence coincides with British prime minister Gordon Brown?s visit to India, where he promotes UK business at a summit with Indian premier Manmohan Singh.

  • December 2007

    Workers are still being paid less than half a living wage producing clothes for leading UK retailers Primark, Tesco and Asda in Bangladesh - a year after War on Want's report Fashion Victims exposed their sweatshops. The £4.6 million in salary and bonuses for Tesco's chief executive Sir Terry Leahy could pay the annual wages of more than 25,000 Bangladeshi garment employees who supply its stores, based on average wages of about £15 a month.

  • October 2007

    British newspaper The Observer finds unpaid Indian children as young as 10 working 16 hours a day amid filthy conditions, making clothes for sale in Gap stores as Christmas gifts.

  • September 2007

    War on Want and the anti-sweatshop coalition Labour Behind the Label name and shame 12 UK fashion stores which have cold-shouldered the only detailed study on the case for garment employees to receive a living wage. The culprits listed in Let?s Clean Up Fashion 2007 Update are Bhs, Diesel, House of Fraser, Kookai, Matalan, MK One, Moss Bros, Mothercare, Peacocks/Bon Marche, River Island, Rohan Designs and Ted Baker. War on Want and Labour Behind the Label say the culprits "make no reasonable information available on the living wage or other labour rights issues" and "?continue not to respond to our enquiries about their policies and practice."

  • British newspaper The Guardian reports allegations that Indian workers making clothes for British retailers Primark and Mothercare are so poor - paid as little as 13p an hour - that they sometimes have to rely on government food parcels.

  • August 2007

    British newspaper The Sunday Times finds workers in Mauritius paid less than £4 a day to make clothes for the latest range designed by supermodel Kate Moss for sale by the UK retailer Topshop.<

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

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A Living Wage for Workers

The right to be paid a living wage is a basic entitlement of all working people the world over, whether they work in the public or private sectors, in the global South or North.

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