Report Research:
Factory A - 70% Workers Female
Factory B - 73% Workers Female
Factory C - 75% Workers Female
Factory D - ? % Workers Female
Factory E - 69% Workers Female
Factory F - 61% Workers Female

UK/Bangladesh - Fashion Victims

Bangladesh - ‘5p an hour women shame UK stores’
Kumars star Meera Syal backs regulation call over Primark, Tesco and Asda

Friday 8 December 2006

Workers in Bangladesh are regularly working 80 hours a week for just 5p an hour, in potential death trap factories, to produce cheap clothes for British consumers of Primark, Tesco and Asda’s ‘George’ range. The charity War on Want today issued these findings in a new report, Fashion Victims, based on research among employees at six Bangladeshi factories in the capital Dhaka which employ over 5,000 workers, mainly women, making clothes for the three bargain retailers. Meera Syal, star of the television series The Kumars at No 42, is supporting moves for regulation to bring these companies to account.

Primark, Tesco and Asda have all made public commitments to the payment of a living wage to suppliers – commonly calculated to be a minimum £22 a month in Bangladesh. Yet starting wages in the factories researched for War on Want’s report were as little as £8 a month, barely a third of the living wage. Even better paid sewing machine operators receive only £16 a month, which equates to 5p an hour for the 80 hours they regularly have to work each week. The minimum wage for garment workers in Bangladesh halved in real terms during the 1990s, and many complain their pay is too low to cover food, housing and health costs.

Primark, Tesco and Asda have also pledged that their suppliers must not be required to work more than 48 hours a week on a regular basis, and should have at least one day off in seven on average. But workers interviewed for War on Want’s report can toil up to 96 hours a week – double the supposed maximum – and often lose their day off. Factory owners have forced staff to work up to 140 hours a month overtime, often unpaid, or face dismissal.

In February and March 2006, garment factory collapses and fires in Bangladesh left almost 100 workers dead and many others injured. Being locked in unsafe buildings has been a common complaint among Bangladeshi factory workers. Interviewees for War on Want’s report also stated that emergency exits are often kept locked in their workplaces.

Primark, Tesco and Asda have given their commitment to fair treatment for suppliers’ workers. But employees interviewed for War on Want’s report said their managers had been given prior notice of these companies’ social audits, and workers themselves had been bullied by their bosses to lie about their pay, hours and safety.

Louise Richards, Chief Executive of War on Want, said: “Bargain retailers such as Primark, Asda and Tesco are only able to sell at rock bottom prices in the UK because women workers in Bangladesh are being exploited. The companies are not even living up to their own commitments towards their overseas suppliers. The Labour government must bring in effective regulation to end such shameful practices.”


Paul Collins, War on Want media officer (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 office (+44) (0)7983 550728 (mobile).
Simon McRae, War on Want senior campaigns officer (+44) (0)20 7549 0589 (office) (+44) (0)7779 146043 (mobile)

[1] The report, Fashion Victims: The true cost of cheap clothes at Primark, Asda and Tesco comes on the day of the annual general meeting of Primark’s parent company, Associated British Foods, in London.
[2] England cricket captain Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff and wife Rachael have been chosen by Asda as the new celebrities to promote their George clothing range, alongside England football star Wayne Rooney’s fiancée Coleen McLoughlin.
[3] War on Want is promoting its own ethically produced clothing as gifts for the festive season. The charity’s long-sleeved and short-sleeved T-shirts bear the slogan “poverty is political”. These are available online at www.waronwant.org/All+Clothing+9607.twl

Download the Fashion Victims report Download Fashion Victims [pdf]:
The true cost of cheap clothes at Primark, Asda and Tesco.

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