News

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

‘Scrap Israel trade agreement'

15 January 2009 - 12:00am

War on Want hails EC move

The anti-poverty charity War on Want today urged the European Commission to follow up its decision to suspend moves to upgrade political and trade links with Israel by stopping the upgrade process altogether.

War on Want welcomed the EC freezing negotiations on upgrading ties amid growing pressure for sanctions against Israel over its attack on Gaza, with more than 1,000 Palestinian deaths, almost one in three women and children.

It also welcomed reports that senior Brussels officials say a Europe-Israel summit to launch a new “special relationship” – piloted by the Czech Republic, which holds the EU presidency - would probably not take place.

And the charity pressed the commission to suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement which already ensures preferential treatment for Israeli trade in Europe.

The new protocol of cooperation would enable far greater Israeli participation in European Community programmes.

War on Want opposes this step and the existing agreement, citing Israel's ongoing illegal occupation, with millions of Palestinians suffering human rights abuse and crushing poverty in refugee camps or under occupation.

It earlier called on the EU to suspend the Association Agreement in order to bring pressure on Israel to abide by international law.

Article 2 of the Agreement makes Israel's trading preferences dependent on respect for human rights, a condition which UN specialists claim Israel has often breached.

Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at War on Want, said: “It has taken Israel's brutal assault and carnage in Gaza to persuade the commission to act. The suspension represents a positive initial development. Now the EC must use its leverage by ending the present Association Agreement.”

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

'Israel war crimes shame UK'

7 January 2009 - 12:00am

Brown, Miliband slated on Gaza atrocities

The British government is today accused of complicity in Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people.

The accusation, from the anti-poverty charity War on Want, comes only hours after 40 people, including children, died when Israel shelled a UN school inside Gaza.

In the first 12 days of the attacks, over 680 people have been killed and over 3,075 injured. As governments around the world speak out against Israel's actions, the British government refuses to condemn Israel for its assault on Gaza.

War on Want hits out at the UK government for supporting the US block on the original UN Security Council resolution, submitted four days after the attacks began, which called for "an immediate ceasefire and for its full respect by both sides”.

The charity also denounced the government for licensing arms sales to Israel such as key components for F-16 fighter jets, used to bomb Gaza.

War on Want points to past admissions by the British government that UK military equipment licensed for sale to Israel could be used in attacks on Palestinian civilians.

It also cites the statement from Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur for human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which challenged the complicity of countries “knowingly providing the military equipment, including war planes and missiles, used in these illegal attacks”.

War on Want criticises British ministers for continuing to support the European Union's decision to upgrade the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which will reward Israel with even more privileged access to European institutions.

The charity brands Israel's attack the culmination of its policy of collective punishment and killing against the people of Gaza over the past 18 months.

It says Israel has imposed an illegal state of siege on Gaza and created a devastating humanitarian crisis for the 1.5 million people trapped there.

According to the charity, the root cause of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is Israel's illegal occupation, which has raised poverty among ordinary Palestinians to the levels of sub-Saharan Africa.

Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at War on Want, said: “British ministers should hang their heads in shame for their failure to condemn Israel.

“By rewarding Israeli aggression with economic preferences and upgraded diplomatic relations, the UK government and other EU member states have given the green light to Israel's campaign of illegal violence.

“Gordon Brown and David Miliband are complicit in Israel's war crimes against the Palestinian people.”

War on Want is urging the public to write to UK foreign secretary David Miliband, demanding sanctions on Israel.



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

‘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

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