News

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

Activists step up Iraq oil fight

25 March 2009 - 12:00am

NEWS HOOKS

Wednesday, 25 March-Tuesday, 31 March 2009
Rome
First-ever conference for Iraqi and international human rights campaigners

Wednesday, 1 April 2009
London
Demonstration over UK oil giant BP celebrating its centenary at the British Museum


Historic talks resist US, UK takeover

Campaigners will today intensify their battle against the US and Britain handing control over Iraq's oil to corporations in a landmark conference for the occupied country's civil society.

The Rome event will for the first time bring together Iraqi activists, trade unions, and women's and youth groups, with supporters from around the world, including Britain.

It will address the bid to stop the oil takeover and the struggle to replace occupation and violence with a peaceful democracy which ensures Iraqi control over land and resources.

The talks will come in the run-up to a demonstration next Wednesday as the UK oil giant BP - one of the companies which aim to win control over Iraq's oil - celebrates its centenary at the British Museum.

Elsewhere in London on the same day, protesters will mark the sixth anniversary of the war on Iraq as US president Barack Obama and other world leaders arrive for the G20 summit of the world's leading economies.

The UK anti-poverty charity War on Want will join forces with civil society organisations, including oil trade unions and human rights groups, to plan new initiatives at the conference to promote Iraqi sovereignty.

Gemma Houldey, international programmes officer at War on Want, said: "This ground-breaking event will take place at a vital point in Iraq's history. For decades oppression and dictatorship have silenced or weakened Iraqi civil society.

"Now, six years on from the fall of the Saddam regime, we are determined to strengthen our backing for the oil workers and other marginalised groups.

"The US and British government cannot be allowed to hand over Iraq's resources to swell multinationals' profits at ordinary people's expense."

Since 2005 the US and Britain have demanded new legislation to privatise control over Iraq's oil.

But, faced with strong opposition led by the Iraqi oil workers' trade union, achievement of that objective has been consistently delayed.

The Hands Off Iraqi Oil coalition, including War on Want, warns of greater conflict and hardship if the American and British governments succeed with pressure to drive through contracts.


NOTE TO EDITORS

The Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative conference will take place at Velletri, near Rome.

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

 

Tax haven campaign targets banks

12 March 2009 - 10:33am

NEWS HOOKS

Thursday, 12 March 2009
Campaigners from countries losing billions of pounds through banks using tax havens hold a public meeting with residents on the UK crown dependency Jersey who are hit by the island's tax dodgers forcing up living costs

Friday, 13 March 2009
Jersey news briefing, picture opportunity and campaigners' protests outside banks

Saturday, 14 March 2009
Tax haven talks in London among finance ministers from the G20 group of the world's biggest economies before UK premier Gordon Brown hosts the G20 summit involving US president Barack Obama and other leaders on 2 April


Offshore ‘dodges' face Jersey protest

British banks bailed out from collapse with £500 billion of taxpayers' money will today be targeted when UK and mainland European campaigners join forces with Jersey islanders to attack tax havens.

The British charity War on Want will step up its campaign to end tax havens. The charity warns that the tax information sharing agreement with Britain signed this week by Jersey is not enough. It says Jersey has rushed to sign the deal in a bid to escape being put on a blacklist of tax havens being drawn up in advance of next month's G20summit.

The big four banks - RBS, Lloyds TSB, Barclays and HSBC - have over 1200 subsidiaries in tax havens, with the Cayman Islands (262) and Jersey (170) the most popular. And Northern Rock has a trust in Jersey called Granite suspected of holding £40 billion.

Tonight the charity - together with Italian, French and Irish groups - will hold a public meeting in Jersey alongside low-income residents as pressure mounts on the UK government to scrap tax havens.

Tomorrow, the eve of talks by finance ministers from the G20 group of leading economies, War on Want and other groups will protest outside 10 major UK and European banks in the island's capital St Helier.

War on Want says corporate tax dodging is costing developing countries £250 billion a year - money which could be used to reach the UN's anti-poverty goals five times over. It also points to Barclays' involvement in the launch of a new tax haven in Ghana, where almost 80 per cent of the population struggle to make ends meet on less than $2 a day.

It warns that any crackdown on tax havens must take account of the impact on those less well off living in havens such as Jersey. War on Want contrasts the £700,000-a-year pension for the disgraced chief of RBS - which has 30 offshore companies in Jersey - with the one in four of the islanders who depend on state help to survive amid one of the world's highest living costs. Despite Jersey boasting its people enjoy one of the world's highest average incomes, through hundreds of billions in bank deposits, 45 per cent of Jersey single pensioners and 64 per cent of single mothers and their children live in relative poverty.

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "The British government claims to care about global poverty. Yet the UK plays a major role in helping companies dodge the tax they owe which could help the poor. If Brown is to put people's needs before global greed, he must shut down fat cats' tax havens."


NOTES TO EDITORS

  • The public meeting will take place at 6.45 pm today (Thursday, 12 March) at St Paul's Centre in Dumaresq Street, St Helier. It has been organised by War on Want, Tax Justice Network and The Corner House, Debt and Development (Ireland), Attac (France and Jersey), Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale (Italy), and CIDSE and Eurodad (Brussels). The speakers will include economist Alex Cobham, from Oxford University in Britain, Attac representative Jacques Herel and Jersey resident Rose Pestana.
  • War on Want and other groups will brief media at 9.30 am tomorrow (Friday, 13 March) at La Fregate Café, near the Waterfront in St Helier. The charity and the groups will then demonstrate at 10.00 am outside the States of Jersey parliament building in Royal Square, before protesting outside banks with offshore companies. To attend the briefing or take pictures of the protests, call Simon McRae on (+44) (0)7779 146043.
  • Tax haven figures on the big four banks: http://www.tuc.org.uk/economy/tuc-15906-f0.cfm
  • Ghana tax haven: http://www.ghana.gov.gh/ghana/economy_sound_offshore_banking_governor.jsp
  • Jersey poverty: www.guardian.co.uk/money/2008/mar/21/tax

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

 

Cash crisis rally draws crowds

25 February 2009 - 3:04pm

Big support for G20 summit protest

Hordes of poverty and green campaigners from groups representing hundreds of thousands of people will join the largest British event to confront the global economic crisis this weekend.

The free, all-day event will take place exactly a month before many thousands of demonstrators march for jobs, justice and the planet in the run-up to the UK hosting a crunch summit of the G20 group of leading economies in London.

More than 1200 people have already booked places at 6 Billion Ways, named after the world's population.

The event comes as the crisis increases unemployment and poverty while threatening the lives of millions of people through rich nations' failure to tackle climate change.

It will take place on Saturday (28 February) with 20 debates on topics including activism, multinationals' abuse and Palestine, films on themes such as democracy and free speech, theatre, information stalls, fair trade goods and books.

Seb Klier, a 6 Billion Ways organiser, said: "Many people angered over a crisis sparked by politicians' free-market policies and bankers' self-interest are determined to press for positive change. This special day will enable them to exchange ideas on how we can build a better world based on need, not greed."

The International Labour Organisation predicts that the number of jobless could rise this year by up to 30 million, compared to 2007, and 50 million if the crisis deepens, with the figure for the working poor soaring to 1.4 billion.

And the World Bank says the slump could throw 53 million more people into poverty.

The day has been arranged by anti-poverty trio War on Want, the Jubilee Debt Campaign and the World Development Movement, as well as Friends of the Earth, the students' network People & Planet, the Muslim charity City Circle and the cultural organisation Rich Mix.

They warn of worse economic troubles unless British prime minister Gordon Brown and other world leaders ditch the free market system that caused the crisis in favour of policies which benefit poor people and the environment.

Among the 6 Billion Ways speakers will be actor Colin Firth, human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger, former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzem Begg, activist comedian Mark Thomas, ex-London mayor Ken Livingstone, political scientist Susan George, Muslim academic Tariq Ramadan, South African campaigner Trevor Ngwane and Meena Rahman, general Secretary of Sahabat Alam Malaysia/Friends of the Earth Malaysia.

The event will use three east London venues - Rich Mix, Amnesty International and Shoreditch town hall. Anyone can register for a place on the event website www.6billionways.org.uk or turn up on the day at Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA.


CONTACTS

Paul Collins, War on Want media office

(+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

Kate Blagojevic, World Development Movement media office

(+44) (0)207 820 4900/4913 or (+44) (0)7711 875 345.

 

War on Want boosts poverty fight

24 February 2009 - 11:59am

Website facelift woos increased backing

War on Want has launched a new website in a bid to grow support for its battles against global poverty.

The charity plans a major event for activists on the global economic crisis, increased awareness on its overseas work and a leading role in a big demonstration before the G20 summit of the biggest economies in London.

The site's innovative features include:

  • a special feed to tell supporters about breaking news.
  • a striking home page with large rotating images.
  • higher quality photographs and graphics.
  • better integrated films and picture galleries.
  • enhanced search engine.
  • interactive map to show where and how the charity works.
  • a section on how activists can support War on Want campaigns.
  • software which enables all staff to update material.

The popular former website played a key part in voluntary organisations' chief executives placing War on Want among Britain's five most admired charities in a poll conducted by the magazine Third Sector.

War on Want aims to extend the current many thousands of visits to its website from more than 140 countries.

Corin Pearce, who manages the charity's information technology, said: "The new year has seen us gather momentum through initiatives such as a report on exploited wine workers and planned campaign events. With a rising profile as the UK's foremost charity tackling the causes of world poverty, the new website can win even more public backing for our work."

The site was designed with Joomla, a prize-winning content management system.

Joomkit director Alan Sparkes said: "It has been a pleasure and privilege to help War on Want. Its grassroots partnerships represent the most powerful way to fight global poverty."


NOTES TO EDITORS

• The War on Want site is at www.waronwant.org

• Hordes of poverty and green campaigners from groups representing hundreds of thousands of people will join the largest British event to confront the global economic crisis, 6 Billion Ways, on Saturday, 28 February. Anyone can register for the free all-day event at www.6billionways.org.uk

• Put People First!, a coalition of trade unions and anti-poverty, environmental and faith groups representing millions of people, will stage a march for jobs, justice and the climate on Saturday, 28 March. www.putpeoplefirst.org.uk The demonstration will take place five days before the G20 summit of leading economies on Thursday, 2 April in London.

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

London Fashion Week clothes fury

19 February 2009 - 3:33pm

NEWS HOOK

Friday, 20 February 2009 London Fashion Week starts

Friday, 20 February 2009 The first UN World Day of Social Justice

EMBARGO: 00.01 hrs GMT, Friday 20 February 2009


‘Poverty pay spectre haunts industry'

London Fashion Week opens today facing accusations by the charity War on Want that garment workers are paid poverty wages producing clothing for some of Britain's largest retailers.

With the week starting on the first UN Day of Social Justice, the charity warned that exploitation haunts the event.

War on Want has led the way in campaigning against systemic abuse of overseas garment workers, toiling marathon hours, turning out fashion for British stores for less than a living wage - enough for food, housing and healthcare.

In December its research showed that amid rising food and fuel prices Bangladeshi employees, making fashion for Primark, Tesco and Asda for as little as seven pence an hour, are in deeper poverty than two years earlier.

In March this year a BBC investigation found migrant workers in the English northern city of Manchester toiling 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for £3 an hour, well below the adult minimum wage of £5.73.

And in March last year War on Want collaborated with the UK newspaper the Guardian to reveal Indian workers producing clothing for Gap's upmarket chain Banana Republic received well under a living wage for 70 hours a week.

Simon McRae, the charity's senior campaigns officer, said: "London Fashion Week promotes itself as a great ambassador for British industry. But the trend which is always in vogue is the exploitation of workers. If ministers want the industry to be a positive advertisement for the UK, they must introduce regulation to halt this abuse."


NOTES TO EDITORS

  • The War on Want report Fashion Victims II can be downloaded here
  • The Guardian story on Banana Republic can be found here

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

 

£2 Valentine flowers poverty alert

13 February 2009 - 4:11pm

Warning over Asda ‘ethical' bouquets

Valentine's Day wine ‘shame'

12 February 2009 - 3:07pm

NEWS HOOK Saturday, 14 February 2009 St Valentine's Day

EMBARGO: 00.01 hrs GMT, Friday 13 February 2009

African workers pay the price for supermarket greed - report

Lovers buying wine for Valentine's Day tomorrow are today warned that South African workers face poverty wages supplying British supermarkets.

In a new report the anti-poverty charity War on Want cites worsening conditions for employees as UK retailers and wine brokers drive down suppliers' prices to boost their profits.

Amid rising food and fuel costs, large numbers of workers in the Western Cape region are struggling to feed and clothe their families and pay for healthcare and their children's school fees.

Supermarkets control the biggest share of the UK wine market, selling over 80 per cent of all imports. Britain is the world's largest importer of South African wine, buying almost a third by volume. Tesco sells most South African wine (20 per cent), the Co-op 14 per cent, Sainsbury's 12 per cent and Asda and Morrisons 9 per cent each.

The report, Sour Grapes, says that supermarkets and wine agents force suppliers to cut production costs by dominating markets and abusing their buyer power. This traps vineyard and fruit employees in low pay and insecure jobs, with farmers increasingly hiring seasonal employees who earn less and lack entitlements received by permanent workers, such as housing and sick pay.

Though many farms are in remote places, workers must walk there, unable to afford transport. Most seasonal employees are women, earning less than men on permanent contracts and often suffering from sexual harassment at work.

Growing numbers of workers are migrants, who travel long distances in a desperate hunt for even temporary jobs. Migrants experience problems defending their rights as they do not speak Afrikaans, the main Cape language.

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "Many of us will buy South African wine in supermarkets to share with loved ones on St Valentine's Day. But, for workers producing the wine, these supermarkets and wine agents are more sinners than saints. It is time the UK government introduced regulation to stop this shameful abuse."

War on Want is urging shoppers to write to business secretary Lord Mandelson, urging him to enable overseas workers to seek redress if UK companies or their suppliers exploit them.

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • Sour Grapes: South African wine workers and British supermarket power is based on  research conducted by the International Institute for Environment and Development for War on Want and its South African partner, the trade union Sikhula Sonke.
  • More information on Sikhula Sonke can be found here

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

Caterpillar disinvestment move hailed

11 February 2009 - 11:53am

Investors urged to follow Church lead

War on Want welcomes the decision by the Church of England to disinvest from Caterpillar. Institutional investors are today urged to follow the Church by disinvesting from a company whose bulldozers have been used to build the Separation Wall and destroy Palestinians' homes.

The call, from the anti-poverty charity War on Want, comes after the Church of England decision to divest £2.2 million from Caterpillar on financial grounds.

Yasmin Khan, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "The Church of England's decision to disinvest from Caterpillar is welcome. It also brings the Church in line with its own ethical investment policy and the decision of the General Synod. Now other institutional investors should take similar action."

War on Want has long called for the Church of England to disinvest from Caterpillar on the grounds of the company's complicity in the violation of Palestinian human rights.

In the report Profiting From the Occupation, the charity attacked Caterpillar over selling bulldozers for the Israeli army to destroy Palestinian homes, schools, orchards and olive groves.

It said that equipment from Caterpillar was also used to construct the Separation Wall, ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice.

And the UN has singled out Caterpillar in particular for its collusion with Israel's human rights abuse.

In 2006 the Church of England General Synod voted to withdraw its investment from Caterpillar. But the Church Commissioners failed to follow the Synod's decision.

After the Israeli onslaught against Gaza in recent weeks, Palestinian civil society groups, including the charity's partner Stop the Wall, have called for an escalation of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.

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

Brown call to Davos ‘threatens millions'

27 January 2009 - 12:00am

NEWS HOOK
Wednesday, 28 January - Sunday, 1 February 2009 World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland Tuesday, 27 January 2009

PM's globalisation appeal sparks job fears

The charity War on Want today warned that British prime minister Gordon Brown's appeal to the World Economic Forum this week threatens to deepen the global economic crisis and cost millions of jobs around the world.

The warning came as Brown announced his agenda for further liberalisation of markets and a new deepening of globalisation at the forum, which opens in Davos tomorrow (Wednesday).

Brown plans to join a record 41 government leaders and heads of state among 2,500 delegates from 96 countries at the forum's annual meeting in the Swiss mountain resort, which is being seen as a precursor to the G20 summit in London on 2 April.

The prime minister is promoting the resumption of the stalled Doha round of world trade negotiations as a means of opening up new business opportunities for UK financial service companies in emerging economies such as India, Brazil and Chile.

Yet this pursuit of further globalisation and the British prime minister's resistance to anything but ‘light touch' regulation of financial markets threatens to exacerbate the crisis already sweeping the world economy, says War on Want.

And revived world trade talks would put millions more jobs in jeopardy by exposing producers in developing countries to overwhelming competition from rich nations' multinational companies.

War on Want's Executive Director John Hilary said: "Gordon Brown's call for even more globalisation threatens working people around the world with disaster. Millions are already facing unemployment and long-term poverty due to the failures of the free market system. It beggars belief that Brown is calling for more of the same."

Hilary continued: "No country has pressed harder than the UK for the deregulation of financial markets and trade rules. These are the very policies which have caused the current crisis and brought misery to millions. Rather than defending the failed policies of globalisation, Gordon Brown should listen to the growing number of voices calling for a new agenda based on principles of equity and democracy, not corporate greed."

NOTE TO EDITORS
Interviews are available with John Hilary in London, and with War on Want representatives at the World Social Forum, which takes place in the northern Brazilian city of Belem from today (Tuesday, 27 January) until Sunday, 1 February 2009.

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

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