News

Supermarket watchdog plan wins two cheers

13 January 2010 - 2:33pm

NEWS PEG - Wednesday, 13 January 2010 Government accepts the need for a supermarket ombudsman


Charity presses Mandelson for urgent appointment

The anti-poverty charity War on Want today welcomed the British government's announcement after long delay that ministers have accepted the need for a supermarket ombudsman to police retailers' behaviour towards suppliers.

The charity hailed the statement after its four years of campaigning for government regulation on supermarkets, but sought evidence that ministers will introduce tough curbs to halt supermarkets' abuse of suppliers.

War on Want expressed concern that the government's announcement of further consultation will delay the urgent need for a watchdog.

The charity asked for government assurance that the ombudsman would not let supermarkets off the hook over abuse.

It urged ministers to indicate the length of the consultation, whether the ombudsman would have independence, as well as its structure, operation and powers, including whether the body will cover overseas and non-food suppliers.

War on Want stressed the Competition Commission had already taken long and wide soundings before its proposal for a body to control supermarkets' relationship with suppliers.

Simon McRae, the charity's senior campaigns officer, said: "At last the government has acknowledged the need for a supermarket ombudsman amid many suppliers' complaints of abuse. But Mandelson must now minimise its delay and ensure the watchdog is independent, robust and has the authority to prevent stores exploiting overseas workers."

Over 200 cross-party MPs signed a parliamentary early day motion calling for an independent ombudsman.

The Conservatives have promised to establish a watchdog if they win the coming election.

It would, however, lie within the Office of Fair Trading, which War on Want says has failed to stand up to supermarkets.

According to War on Want, many South Africans earn well below a living wage on farms supplying fruit and wine to UK supermarkets.

The charity's research has also revealed that Kenyan and Colombian workers face poverty pay supplying flowers to British supermarkets.

War on Want is demanding that a watchdog should extend beyond agriculture to all sectors, including clothes suppliers.

The charity has revealed workers making garments for Tesco and Asda in Bangladesh receive only half a living wage.

Yesterday Tesco announced its best Christmas sales in three years, with strong non-food sales, especially clothes.


NOTE TO EDITORS: War on Want also welcomed the government's recognition that a watchdog would not affect consumer prices. The charity has cited research by economist Roger Clarke which found the ombudsman would not only protect suppliers, but would cost supermarkets just 0.005% of turnover, improve products, and, in some cases like agricultural products, lower prices.

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

 

 


EC_logo

This webpage has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this webpage are the sole responsibility of War on Want and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.

 

Mandelson pressed on stores watchdog

4 January 2010 - 9:47pm

NEWS HOOK: Conservatives promise to appoint a supermarket ombudsman


Abuse campaign grows after Tory pledge

Business secretary Lord Mandelson today faced mounting pressure to establish a supermarket ombudsman amid a Conservative pledge to appoint a watchdog that would protect suppliers from abuse.

The anti-poverty charity War on Want called on Mandelson to act after shadow environment secretary Nick Herbert announced that a future Tory government would appoint a supermarket ombudsman.

Herbert will deliver the promise in a speech tomorrow at the Oxford Farming conference.

The charity welcomes the pledge as a step towards a fair deal for overseas workers who supply British stores.

According to War on Want, many South Africans earn well below a living wage on farms supplying fruit and wine to UK supermarkets.

The charity's research has also revealed that Kenyan and Colombian workers face poverty pay supplying flowers to British supermarkets.

War on Want is demanding that a watchdog should extend beyond agriculture to all sectors, including clothes suppliers.

The charity has revealed workers making garments for Tesco and Asda in Bangladesh receive only half a living wage.

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "Supermarkets in the UK are shamelessly exploiting overseas workers who supply produce sold by their stores.

"While the government fails to do anything about the abuse of suppliers, even the Conservatives now recognise the need for action. The government must introduce a watchdog as an urgent priority."

Research by leading economist Roger Clarke found the ombudsman would not only protect suppliers.

It would also cost supermarkets just 0.005% of turnover, improve products, and, in some cases like agricultural products, lower prices.

And eight in 10 shoppers want a watchdog, according to a YouGov poll.

War on Want has led moves for a supermarket ombudsman with other groups, backed by more than 60,000 people who have taken action to strengthen the drive.

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

 

 


EC_logo

This webpage has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this webpage are the sole responsibility of War on Want and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.

 

‘Stop companies’ overseas abuse’ government told

15 December 2009 - 5:03pm

NEWS PEG: Wednesday, 16 December 2009 MPs, peers criticise British government over UK firms' overseas human rights abuse


Firms watchdog call over MPs, peers concern

The British government today faces pressure to establish a new independent watchdog to police UK companies abusing human rights. The pressure comes from the anti-poverty charity War on Want as MPs and peers criticised ministers' failure to tackle firms which commit human rights violations abroad.

In the report of its inquiry, the joint select committee on human rights agreed the government has no coherent strategy and "gives undue priority to voluntary initiatives".

War on Want senior campaigns officer Simon McRae said: "British companies continue to commit serious human rights abuses across the world. Yet the government's only response is to come up with voluntary initiatives which companies are free to ignore. When will ministers take real action to hold these companies to account?"

The committee launched the report only hours after the charity handed into Downing Street over 16,000 names of people who demand that British prime minister Gordon Brown regulates stores which abuse garment workers. War on Want has published research which shows that Bangladeshi workers making clothes for Primark, Tesco and Asda toil up to 80 hours a week and earn as little as half a living wage.

The MPs and peers singled out for criticisms the government's resent consultation over private military companies, which proposes a voluntary code of conduct for the industry, despite hundreds of reports of human rights abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq.

War on Want is spearheading the campaign for tough legislation over mercenaries, including a ban on their use in combat and combat support.

Last week the charity attacked the government's voluntary guidance on supermarkets' trade in goods from illegal Israeli settlements and called for a total ban on sales. War on Want says UK companies are complicit in human rights abuses committed against the Palestinian people.

The charity's evidence of human rights abuses committed by UK corporations submitted to the committee also included:

  • British mining corporations operating in conflict zones overseas. The abuses highlighted include violence and intimidation of local people by paramilitaries and police, arbitrary arrests, physical violence, extrajudicial killings, destruction of houses and the forced displacement of local communities.
  • UK banks' financing of the arms trade, with many high street banks supporting the arms industry, despite their claims to be acting responsibly.
  • Human rights abuses suffered by workers supplying goods for high street retailers. Besides garment workers, these include flower and wine workers supplying British supermarkets. The abuses concerned include physical and verbal harassment, severe breaches of health and safety standards, intimidation and imprisonment of trade unionists, denial of the right to protest, excessive working hours and poverty pay.

NOTE TO EDITORS:

  • The committee's report encourages the UK government to explore the proposal for a commission for business, human rights and the environment.
  • War on Want plays a leading role in the Corporate Responsibility (CORE) coalition, an alliance of civil society groups, voluntary groups and trade unions.

Jo Wood leads No 10 sweatshops drive

14 December 2009 - 5:59pm

Thousands tell PM to halt clothes abuse

Television star Jo Wood and schoolgirls hand in a giant multicolour T-shirt which shows their photographs among pictures of many of the thousands of people behind the campaign Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops.

{loadposition flickr_downingstreet}

Television star Jo Wood and schoolgirls today handed into Downing Street a huge T-shirt with their photographs among pictures of many of thousands of people behind a campaign against sweatshop fashion.

Jo - shocked by garment workers' hardship when she visited Bangladesh with fair trade fashion company and campaign backer People Tree - helped lead the handin.

The 14-year-old pupils - Nabila Bakar, Amine Aras and Nishat Tasnim - came from the 1400-student Mulberry girls' school in London's East End, which hosted a model United Nations conference on child labour and sweatshops after students backed the campaign.

The Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign, organised by the charity War on Want, is the biggest-ever call for the British government to stop retailers, including supermarkets, exploiting overseas workers in developing countries.

It has also won support from pop singer Little Boots, actors Chloë Sevigny, Gael García Bernal and Ashley Jensen, and clothes designer Betty Jackson. Other backers include TV personality Tony Robinson, actor-playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, comedians Jo Brand and Francesca Martinez and gardener Bob Flowerdew.

Supportive public figures include Glenis Willmott, Labour leader in the European parliament, Fiona Hall, European leader for the Liberal Democrats, Green party leader Caroline Lucas, Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of Unite, the UK's largest trade union, Mary Turner, president of the GMB union, Queen's Counsel Michael Mansfield, the leading human rights lawyer, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, journalist John Pilger and cartoonist Martin Rowson.

Last week the charity's research showed that workers making Primark clothes in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka toil up to 84 hours a week and can earn as little as £19 a month - less than half a living wage.

And War on Want last December published another study which revealed that workers faced worse living standards than two years earlier amid similar exploitation in six Dhaka factories producing clothes for Primark, Tesco and Asda.

War on Want executive director John Hilary said: "Cheap fashion modelled on catwalk styles comes with a high price for garment workers in terrible pay and conditions. Retailers have broken their pledges to ensure them decent treatment. Now Gordon Brown must act to halt this abuse."


NOTES TO EDITORS: The charity's latest Primark research is at www.waronwant.org/news/press-releases/16730-new-sweatshop-row-hits-primark Its 2008 study Fashion Victims II is at www.waronwant.org/campaigns/supermarkets/fashion-victims/inform/16360-fashion-victims-ii

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

Image credit: Jon Spaull

Advice on settlers' goods slated

10 December 2009 - 6:54pm

Charity demands supermarkets trade ban

British ministers today came under fire over new voluntary guidance on supermarkets' trade in produce from Israeli settlement farms.

The anti-poverty charity War on Want attacked the government's failure to take stronger action that would end the sale of settlement goods.

Yasmin Khan, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "By selling produce from Israeli settlements, British supermarkets like Tesco, Sainsbury's and Waitrose are profiting from Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

"Voluntary advice on labelling fails to deal with the issue. The government should impose an immediate and total ban on the sale of settlement goods in Britain.

"The government's position is utterly contradictory. Ministers call settlements obstacles to peace, yet sustain their existence by allowing UK retailers to trade with them."

The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs issued the guidance over three years after the charity first highlighted the matter in a report that named supermarkets which sold goods from illegal Israeli settlements.

The report said the government risked charges of complicity in Israel's breaches of international law.

The new advice says the settlements flout article 49 (6) of the 1949 fourth Geneva convention, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring its own civilian population into occupied territory.

It adds that settlements make the establishment of a viable Palestinian state more difficult and that Israel has not yet met its duties under political agreements on freezing all settlement activity.

The government says traders and retailers may wish to indicate whether the product originated from an Israeli settlement or from Palestinian producers.

This could take the form, for example, of "Produce of the West Bank (Israeli settlement produce)" or "Produce of the West Bank (Palestinian produce)".

The government considers traders would mislead consumers and almost certainly commit an offence if they declare produce from the occupied Palestinian territories (including from the West Bank) as "Produce of Israel".

This would apply whether the goods were from a Palestinian producer or from an Israeli settlement in the territories.


NOTES TO EDITORS

  • War on Want's report Profiting from the Occupation is at www.waronwant.org/campaigns/fighting-occupation/palestine/inform/12573-profiting-from-the-occupation
  • The US president Barack Obama, the United Nations and the European Union have made repeated calls on Israel to halt its settlements expansion and condemned them as a barrier to peace in the region
  • Britain is a leading market for exports of Israeli fresh agricultural produce and the biggest market for state-owned Israeli company Agrexco.
  • Agrexco has become a target for activists in the UK over its business in the Israeli-occupied Jordan Valley.

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

 

New sweatshop row hits Primark

3 December 2009 - 11:01pm

  1. Press release
  2. Research
  3. Picture opportunity

NEWS PEG: Friday, 4 December 2009 London Primark hails sales growth at its annual meeting

EMBARGO: 00.01 hrs GMT, Friday, 4 December 2009


£19 a month workers demo targets AGM

Primark's ethical claims face a pounding today (Friday, 4 December) as new research exposes another sweatshop where garment workers producing its clothes toil up to 84 hours a week and can earn as little as £19 a month - less than half a living wage.

Anti-poverty campaigners will demonstrate outside Primark's flagship London store only hours before the cheap fashion retailer celebrates huge sales expansion at its parent company's annual meeting.

Activists from the charity War on Want will protest at Primark exploiting workers making T-shirts, skirts, trousers and babywear in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.

And the campaigners will then go into the meeting with Stacey Dooley from the television series Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts.

The charity's research (briefing below) found employees at the factory earn as little as £19.42 a month (2200 taka) before overtime - less than half the living wage of at least £39.74 a month (4500 taka). They are compelled to toil up to 84 hours a week, but ordered to tell buyers they earn a proper wage and face no excessive working hours. The factory also produces clothes for New Look and Zara.

One garment worker, Madhovi, aged 21, said: "My mother is losing her sight in our family's village. The pay is so little that I cannot afford to send money for her treatment. Happy days will never dawn. All our dreams will remain unfulfilled."

Another worker, Ratna, also 21, said: "My husband has a terminal illness. I have paid for his treatment, but can only to afford to see our small daughter once in two years."

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "Our research underlines the abuse which faces overseas garment workers producing high street clothes. Shoppers cannot rely on retailers to police themselves. Now Gordon Brown must act."

Primark says the retailer has doubled audits and inspections of its factories, appointed an ethical trade director and more ethical trade managers, trained buyers, senior personnel and suppliers in ethical trading, and implemented a new online audit management system.

Khorshed Alam, the Dhaka-based researcher behind the latest study and Fashion Victims II, said: "None of Primark's claims - so-called ethical staff, training and audits - have made any difference to the workers' poverty."

Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers' Federation, said: "This new research and the study last year show typically bad factories which abuse workers' rights."

Thousands of people have supported War on Want's Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign, the biggest-ever call for British government action to stop fashion retailers exploiting overseas workers.


NOTE TO EDITORS

War on Want will protest from 9.00-10.00 am GMT on Friday, 4 December 2009 outside Primark's flagship store at 499 Oxford Street, London W1C 2QQ
The annual meeting of Primark's parent company, Associated British Foods, takes place at 11.00 am on Friday (4 December) at the TUC, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS.
Last month Primark announced a massive 20 per cent jump in sales to £2.3 billion for the year to 12 September and profits up 8 per cent to £252 million.
The War on Want report which showed Primark workers exploited at three other factories can be found here

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


RESEARCH

Comparison between Primark's ethical claims and reality

INTRODUCTION

War on Want's research has exposed how sweatshop conditions abroad are a direct consequence of the business practices of high street shops here in Britain. These companies squeeze suppliers to obtain cheap garments in bulk that can be sold to UK consumers at bargain prices. The conditions in factories supplying British shops are scandalous. In garment sweatshops across Bangladesh, workers earn poverty wages, work long hours, face abuse and are denied trade union representation. War on Want's groundbreaking Fashion Victims reports published in 2006 and 2008 uncovered shocking treatment in factories supplying Tesco, Asda and Primark.

Primark has responded to criticism by making a number of ethical promises about improving standards in its supply chain, including increased audits and inspections of factories, the appointment of an ethical trade director and more ethical trade managers and the training of buyers, senior personnel and suppliers in ethical trade, and implemented a new online audit management system. As a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative, Primark has committed to ensuring workers receive a living wage. The ETI's code of conduct also calls for decent working conditions, a 48-hour working week and the right to join a trade union.

However, trusting companies to clean up their act simply does not work. The latest War on Want research exposes Primark's continuing failure to comply with the ETI standards to which the company has signed up. War on Want has interviewed workers making Primark clothes at a sweatshop factory in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka. Workers in the factory earn as little as half a living wage, work up to 84 hours a week, face harassment and are not allowed to join a union.

Workers in the factory and War on Want's partner in Bangladesh the National Garment Workers' Federation, say that the factory is typical. The factory also supplies New Look and Zara.

War on Want has launched Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops, a campaign to end sweatshop exploitation once and for all. War on Want is calling on the government to regulate the fashion industry, with firm provisions to guarantee basic rights for workers, including a living wage and the right to join a union.

PRIMARK CODE OF CONDUCT TESTED

Primark's code of conduct lists "the standards we require from our suppliers". War on Want's research contrasts these standards with the findings of our latest research.

  1. PRIMARK CODE: EMPLOYMENT IS FREELY CHOSEN
    There is no forced, bonded or involuntary prison labour.

    WAR ON WANT RESEARCH:
    Overtime is mandatory. It is not considered optional. Workers at the factory toil on average 70 hours a week, including 20 hours of compulsory overtime. The workers say that if they refuse overtime their bosses deduct from their pay the wage for their overtime the previous day.

  2. PRIMARK CODE: FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION AND THE RIGHT TO COLLECTIVE BARGAINING ARE RESPECTED
    Workers, without distinction, have the right to join or form trade unions of their own choosing and to bargain collectively. The employer adopts an open attitude towards the activities of trade unions and their organisational activities. Workers' representatives are not discriminated against and have access to carry out their representative functions in the workplace. Such representative functions should include a workers' committee, with elected members where workers can confidentially raise concerns they may have with regard to these guidelines. Where the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining is restricted under law, the employer facilitates, and does not hinder, the development of parallel means for independent and free association and bargaining.

    WAR ON WANT RESEARCH

    :
    According to the workers in the factory, trade unions have been banned.
  3. PRIMARK CODE: WORKING CONDITIONS ARE SAFE AND HYGIENIC
    A safe and hygienic working environment shall be provided, bearing in mind the prevailing knowledge of the industry and of any specific hazards. Access to clean toilet facilities and to potable water, and, if appropriate, sanitary facilities for food storage shall be provided.

    WAR ON WANT RESEARCH:
    The factory lacks any safe drinking water. Workers must risk their health by using tap water. The supplier employs 1000 workers, with 350 making Primark clothes. They share small, unhygienic toilets. The toilets and wash rooms do not even provide tap water.

  4. PRIMARK CODE: LIVING WAGES ARE PAID
    Wages and benefits paid for a standard working week meet, at a minimum, national legal standards or industry benchmark standards, whichever is higher. In any event wages should always be enough to meet basic needs and to provide some discretionary income. All workers shall be provided with written and understandable information about their employment conditions in respect to wages before they enter employment and about the particulars of their wages for the pay period concerned each time that they are paid. Deductions from wages as a disciplinary measure shall not be permitted nor shall any deductions from wages not provided for by national law be permitted without the express permission of the worker concerned. All disciplinary measures should be recorded.

    WAR ON WANT RESEARCH:
    Workers earn as little as £19.42 a month (2200 taka) before overtime - less than half the living wage of at least £39.74 a month (4500 taka). Employees on average receive £20.31 a month (2300 taka), with the highest on £26.50 a month (3000 taka). None of these workers can afford nutritious food, decent housing and adequate healthcare. The vast majority of the employees live in slum homes - one room, often shared with up to three family members - without access to clean water or hygienic toilets. They share kitchens, toilets and bathrooms with other families. Workers interviewed are exhausted and malnourished. Employees who work standing up suffer from swollen legs. Most of the employees reported that in recent months one or two family members had suffered health problems such as stomach pain, dysentery, jaundice, diarrhoea or heart disease.

    The supplier fails to give workers any written employment information, such as their appointment letter or any other document which complies with national labour laws or decent conditions in line with the standards of the United Nations agency the International Labour Organisation. Wages are paid as late as 10 days into the next month, with up to 15 days' wait for overtime pay. The workers said they received no wage slips. Employees cannot plan their childcare as they only learn of any need to undertake compulsory overtime on arrival at the factory. Anyone who fails to return after a lunch break forfeits a full day's pay. Workers also lose pay for lateness or absence without prior consent.

  5. PRIMARK CODE: WORKING HOURS ARE NOT EXCESSIVE
    Working hours comply with national laws and benchmark industry standards, whichever affords greater protection. Workers shall not be required to work in excess of 48 hours per week and shall be provided with at least one day off for every 7 day period on average. Overtime must be on a voluntary basis, shall not exceed 12 hours a week, shall not be demanded on a regular basis and shall always be compensated at a premium rate.

    WAR ON WANT RESEARCH:
    Workers interviewed toil six days a week and between 9 to 14 hours a day, including one hour for lunch. Overtime is mandatory. Depending on the workload, employees can be made to work seven days a week and can finish as late as 10pm. An average working week is 70 hours long . However, workers can be made to work for up to 84 hours a week. Employees say they receive just 60 per cent extra pay for overtime which should be paid at the full rate earned in normal hours.

  6. PRIMARK CODE: NO DISCRIMINATION IS PRACTISED
    There is no discrimination in hiring, compensation, access to training, promotion, termination or retirement based on race, caste, national origin, religion, age, disability, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, union membership or political affiliation.

    WAR ON WANT RESEARCH:
    According to workers, men obtain better paid jobs than women. The supplier's recruitment favours single women rather than mothers with childcare responsibilities. The factory shows buyers its daycare centre for children, but no child is allowed there, according to War on Want's researcher.

  7. PRIMARK CODE: NO HARSH OR INHUMANE TREATMENT IS ALLOWED
    Physical abuse or discipline, the threat of physical abuse, sexual or other harassment and verbal abuse or other forms of intimidation shall be prohibited.

    WAR ON WANT RESEARCH:
    Women workers say they suffer physical and verbal abuse from supervisors for reasons such as enquiries about pay and overtime or requests for leave.

 

PRIMARK ETHICAL MOVES TESTED

PRIMARK ACTION
Primark says the retailer has doubled audits and inspections of its factories this year, appointed an ethical trade director and more ethical trade managers, trained buyers, senior personnel and suppliers in ethical trading, and implemented a new online audit management system.

WAR ON WANT RESEARCH
Interviewees said the factory's owners ensure the workplace and toilets are clean for buyers' visits. Employees are instructed to tell buyers they have a comfortable work environment, receive a proper wage and face no excessive hours or forced overtime.

Methodology

The above information is based on interviews conducted with 18 workers at one factory in Bangladesh during October 2009.

  • The ages of workers ranged from 19 to 28 years, with 22 years the average.
  • Sixteen women and two men were interviewed, reflecting the gender demographic of the factory.
  • Of these workers, ten were married and eight had children.
  • The factory, typical of Dhaka suppliers, makes clothes for Primark and other retailers including two other British chains, New Look and Zara.
  • Employees' names have been changed and the factory's identity withheld to protect workers from reprisals.
  • The exchange rate from taka to sterling has been calculated at £1 = 113 taka , the average rate for October 2009.

CASE STUDIES

Madhovi
Madhovi, aged 21, comes from Bogra in northern Bangladesh and moved to the capital Dhaka for work in a garment factory. She lost her farmer father four years ago. Her mother works as a maid and lives with Madhovi's sister and brother in their rural village.

Madhovi, who earns £21.57 (2500 taka) a month - barely half a living wage - says: "Somehow, I survive on this money, but feel miserable. Simple food and rent gobbles up the money. Happy days will never dawn. All our dreams will remain unfulfilled.

"Both my mother and I wear wornout dresses from other women. She is so poor that the family cannot always eat. I can only go to see her once a year.

"My mother is losing her sight. The pay is so little that I cannot afford to send money for her treatment.

"When I was ill, I could not pay for a doctor. I don't tell my family about my misery. I always say, I am fine. My pay has not increased for two years.

"I manage to send some money home so that my sister and brother can go to school. My mother senses my hardship and wants to take them out of school.

"But I want to see them educated. I don't want them to work in the garment industry. I will eat little and try to send money for them."

Ratna
Ratna is also 21 and from Kamarpara in northern Bangladesh. Her parents died when she was small.

Ratna had to give up school due to poverty.

Later she married a man and both came to Dhaka for work in garment factories.

Ratna, who also earns £21.57 (2500 taka) a month, says: "My husband has a terminal illness. I have paid for his treatment, but can only afford to see our small daughter once in two years.

"How can I afford the travel costs after meeting all our expenses? Prices have soared sky high. Everything is costly."

Ratna had to borrow £43.14 (5000 taka) in order to be reunited with her three-year-old daughter during the recent Muslim festival Eid.

Ratna said: "She wants to see us. I must pay this money back in instalments. I will have to eat just plain rice and lentils.

"Because her father is sick, I want to see my daughter become a doctor to treat the poor."


PICTURE OPPORTUNITY

WHEN? 9.00-10,00 am GMT, Friday, 4 December 2009
WHERE? Primark's flagship store, 499 Oxford Street, London W1C 2QQ
WHAT? Anti-poverty campaigners - including Stacey Dooley from TV series Blood, Sweat and T-shirts - protest first outside the store and then go into the annual meeting of the retailer's parent company

'Kill off Doha' trade warning

26 November 2009 - 2:18pm

NEWS PEGS

  • Saturday, 28 November Geneva Anti-globalisation demonstration just before world trade ministers' summit
  • Monday, 30 November-Wednesday, 2 December 2009 Geneva World Trade Organisation ministerial talks
  • Monday, 30 November Tenth anniversary of protests at the global trade meeting, Seattle

WTO deal 'threatens millions of jobs'

Campaigners today warn that millions more people face poverty and unemployment if the current round of world trade negotiations are carried through to their conclusion. The alert comes from the anti-poverty charity War on Want as trade ministers prepare for the World Trade Organisation's summit in Geneva from Monday (30 November).

The summit marks the 10th anniversary of the collapse of the WTO summit in Seattle, where protestors and developing countries fought off pressure for a new trade round. Although the WTO launched a fresh round of negotiations in Doha two years later, those talks have collapsed again and again as wealthy nations have tried to force their free market agenda on developing countries while refusing to make meaningful cuts in their own farm subsidies.

War on Want executive director John Hilary said: "The WTO has failed to deliver. No amount of wishful thinking will transform it into a body that can offer solutions to the challenges facing our planet today. The Doha round should be abandoned without further delay, and a new process put in train to undo the damage already done by the WTO."

War on Want challenges recent claims made by WTO director general Pascal Lamy that concluding the Doha round will benefit poor people. According to the charity's research, completing the round would put 7.5 million workers at risk in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Mexico, Philippines, Tunisia and Uruguay, and millions more in other countries. It also cites a World Bank study which shows 80% of gains from the Doha round will go to high-income economies, and that the six countries of China, Thailand, India, Indonesia, Argentina and Brazil will reap almost all the rest. According to the charity, academic assessments now concur that the poorest countries will lose out as a result of the Doha round.

War on Want notes the global call for the immediate suspension of the WTO's financial services negotiations, which aim to further liberalise and deregulate financial markets despite wide opinion that such liberalisation has been a primary cause of the present crisis. War on Want also points to the commission set up by the United Nations under former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz, which has called for existing WTO restrictions on financial market regulation to be repealed.

War on Want's partners in the international farmers' movement have demanded a complete end to the WTO's agricultural negotiations, which threaten rural development and the livelihoods of small-scale farmers the world over. War on Want says the environmental case for halting the Doha round is just as urgent, with the "business as usual" approach advocated by the WTO sure to wipe out any gains from progress at the Copenhagen climate summit.

 


NOTES TO EDITORS

  • War on Want trade campaigns officer Dave Tucker will take part in the protest organised by Our World Is Not For Sale and Seattle to Brussels at 2.00 pm GMT on Saturday (28 November) in Place Neuve, rue de Hesse 8, 1204 Geneva
  • Dave can be reached in Geneva from tomorrow (Friday, 26 November) until Wednesday, 2 December on (+44) (0)7906 756863
  • War on Want executive director John Hilary can be reached in Geneva on Monday (30 November) and Tuesday (1 December) on (+44) (0)7983 550727
  • War on Want's research can be found here
  • The World Bank study can be downloaded here

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

New London store faces Primark storm

9 November 2009 - 3:55pm

NEWS PEG: Thursday, 12 November 2009 Primark opens its new London store

‘7p an hour sweatshop' factories spark protest
PICTURE/INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITY

WHAT?
As Britain's leading cheap fashion retailer launches a new London store, campaigners hang out Primark's "dirty washing" in public with a clothes line which cites poverty wages for its garment workers

WHY?
The charity War on Want says Bangladeshi workers making Primark clothes earn as little as 7p an hour

WHEN?
9.00 am GMT, Thursday 12 November 2009

WHERE?
Unit 57, The Mall, Wood Green Shopping City, High Road, London N22 6YQ


As Primark's new London store opens Thursday (12 November), anti-poverty campaigners will hang out the retailer's "dirty washing" in public with a clothes line that cites workers making its clothes for as little as 7p an hour.

The charity War on Want will stage a demonstration amid the store launch days after Primark announced a massive 20 per cent jump in sales to £2.3 billion for the year to 12 September and profits up 8 per cent to £252 million. It will compare Primark's growth with declining living standards among garment workers on poverty wages for up to 80-hour weeks in three Bangladeshi factories. The charity will also contrast the Wood Green store's 75,000 square feet on two floors with the tiny one-room slum homes Primark garment workers share with four or five family members.

War on Want campaigner Seb Klier said: ""Primark has just reported huge sales and profits. But for many Bangladeshis producing its clothes their grim living standards are falling even lower as costs rise. It is high time Gordon Brown introduced regulation to stop this abuse."

The charity is targeting the store opening in north London to step up the biggest-ever call for British government action to stop fashion retailers exploiting overseas workers. Thousands of people have already signed up to the Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign for 50,000 names demanding that Brown regulates the industry.

Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops is also endorsed by television star Jo Wood, pop singer Little Boots, actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Ashley Jensen and clothes designer Betty Jackson. Among other backers are TV personality Tony Robinson, actor-playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, comedians Jo Brand and Francesca Martinez and gardener Bob Flowerdew.

Supportive public figures include Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of Unite, the UK's largest trade union, Mary Turner, president of the GMB union, Queen's Counsel Michael Mansfield, the leading human rights lawyer, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, journalist John Pilger and cartoonist Martin Rowson.


NOTE TO EDITORS

According to War on Want research, workers making clothes for Primark in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka received on average only £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, under half a living wage. Some employees were paid only the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, far less than the £44.82 (5333 taka) needed to escape dire hardship. The vast majority of employees live 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. Ifat, who toils in a factory supplying all three retailers, said: "I can't feed my children three meals a day."

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

‘G20 heads for jobs, climate disaster'

5 November 2009 - 4:35pm

NEWS PEGS

Friday-Saturday, 6-7 November 2009

G20 finance ministers hold talks at St Andrews in Scotland

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Coalition representing over 10 million people, Put People First, including War on Want, other anti-poverty organisations, trade unions and development, environmental and faith groups, stages G20 counter conferences in London and St Andrews


Ministers warned of huge economic losses

British chancellor Alistair Darling and finance ministers from the world's leading economies are today accused of sticking to policies which threaten higher unemployment and climate chaos.

The anti-poverty charity War on Want says the ministers' talks in the Scottish town of St Andrews tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday will spell disaster if they maintain the same approach and policies that sparked the global economic crisis.

John Hilary, the charity's executive director, will propose alternative policies at a London counter conference on Saturday with speakers including Danish ex-prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, MP Jon Cruddas and Green party leader Caroline Lucas.

The conference has been organised by a coalition representing more than 10 million people, Put People First, including War on Want, other anti-poverty organisations, trade unions and development, environmental and faith groups.

The International Labour Organisation estimates this year will end with 239 million jobless people worldwide - up a third compared to the 2007 level - with youth unemployment rising by up to 18 million to 90 million.

War on Want calls for a crackdown on tax havens. Britain loses an estimated £100 billion a year in tax dodges - enough to avoid feared health service cuts. And unpaid tax costs the developing world £250 billion a year.

The charity, with Put People First, is also demanding greater investment in public services, new jobs through a green global economy and steep emission cuts for developed nations at the UN summit in Copenhagen next month.

Mr Hilary said: "The G20 finance ministers have failed to learn the lessons from the financial crisis. Instead, they are merely tweaking a system which continues to favour the rich at the expense of the poor. We need a radical response from the G20 - not more of the same."

Protestors from Put People First will march in St Andrews on Saturday to demand ministers adopt policies which prioritise people's needs over corporate greed.

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • The Put People First conference in London will take place from 10.00 am-5.30 pm on Saturday at Central Hall, Storey's Gate, Westminster, SW1H 9NH.
  • Campaigners from the coalition will stage a beach rally and picture opportunity on Saturday at St Andrews to show ministers' heads in the sand over the global economic crisis. The event will take place at 11.15 am at West Sands.
  • Activists will march at 12.30 pm from the beach to the university.
  • The alliance will hold a conference at the university from 1.30-6.00 pm. Speakers will include Kevin Dunion, rector of St Andrews University, Colin Hines, director of Finance for the Future and co-author of The Green New Deal, and Ugandan development campaigner Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe. The event will take place at St Andrews Students' Association, St Mary's Place, St Andrews KY16 9UZ.

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

New Primark store attacked on 'sweatshops'

5 November 2009 - 10:28am

NEWS PEG: Friday, 6 November 2009 Primark opens big new store in Cambridge


7p an hour protest targets Cambridge opening

Primark today came under fire for exploiting garment workers as Britain's leading cheap fashion retailer prepared to open its new Cambridge store.

This criticism, from anti-poverty charity War on Want, came in advance of the store's Burleigh Street launch tomorrow (Friday, 6 November). The charity unleashed its broadside amid Primark's announcement that the retailer made operating profits of £252 million in the year to 12 September - up 8 per cent - with sales 20 per cent higher at £2.3 billion.

War on Want claimed employees in three Bangladeshi factories toiled up to 80-hour weeks for as little as 7p an hour. It contrasts the three-floor Cambridge store's 54,000 square feet of space with the tiny one-room 100 square feet slum homes Primark garment workers share with four or five family members in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.

War on Want says Primark is cashing in on cheap fashion at the expense of garment workers by opening the Cambridge store and another next week at London's Wood Green in the run-up to Christmas. In addition, the retailer has earmarked a site for a new Edinburgh branch 30 per cent bigger than its original location. It is also reported to plan a massive store in a huge £675 million extension to a Cardiff shopping centre.

But while Primark stores climb towards the 200 mark in six countries, the charity warns that rising food prices are deepening poverty for its Bangladeshi garment workers.

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at the charity, said: "Primark is booming in the recession by keeping clothes prices so low at a terrible cost to its garment workers' living standards. Letting the retailers police themselves has failed to ensure workers decent pay and conditions. Now Gordon Brown must act to stop this abuse."

War on Want is making the biggest-ever call for British government action to stop fashion retailers exploiting overseas workers. Thousands of people have already signed up to the charity's Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign for 50,000 names demanding that Brown regulates the industry.

The push is also endorsed by television star Jo Wood, pop singer Little Boots, actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Ashley Jensen and clothes designer Betty Jackson. Among other backers are TV personality Tony Robinson, actor-playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, comedians Jo Brand and Francesca Martinez and gardener Bob Flowerdew. Supportive public figures include Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of Unite, the UK's largest trade union, Mary Turner, president of the GMB union, Safia Minney, director of fair trade fashion company People Tree, Queen's Counsel Michael Mansfield, the leading human rights lawyer, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, journalist John Pilger and cartoonist Martin Rowson.

People can add their names on the campaign's website at www.lovefashionhatesweatshops.org

NOTE TO EDITORS

According to War on Want research, workers making clothes for Primark in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka received on average only £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, under half a living wage. Some employees were paid only the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, far less than the £44.82 (5333 taka) needed to escape dire hardship. The vast majority of employees live 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. Ifat, who toils in a factory supplying all three retailers, said: "I can't feed my children three meals a day."

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

 

 

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