UK fashion sweatshop workers severely underpaid
by David Masters
September 15, 2008
Not a single fashion store on the UK high street pays its sweatshop workers a living wage.
Anti-sweatshop campaigners have warned that progress towards ensuring that clothes-makers overseas are paid a living wage is moving at the pace of a ‘glacier’.
A new report by campaign group ‘Labour Behind the Label’ says that the high street fashion industry – worth £36 billion per year – is only ‘dabbling’ with the idea of improving pay for the sweatshops workers who make their clothes.
A decade after most high street chains pledged to improve working conditions and pay workers a living wage, most of the people who make clothes for the UK are still paid less than half of what they need to meet their basic needs.
Garment makers in Bangladesh were found working an 80 hour week for just 5 pence per hour.
Not a single one of the 30 brands surveyed for the report pays it workers a living wage – even though some are members of the Ethical Trading Initiative.
Only six of the companies – Accessorize, Monsoon, Marks & Spencer, Gap, New Look, and Next – have ‘detailed’ plans to improve conditions for overseas workers.
Five others – Tesco, Asda, Primark, Sainsbury’s and the Arcadia Group, failed to provide any concrete information, but have said they will ‘do something’.
Other high street brands, including French Connection, Burberry, Levi Strauss, and Matalan, were criticised for having done ‘no work’ to improve wages, whilst seven companies questioned – including BHS and Peacocks – failed to reply to requests for information.
Most companies questioned by the group said it would be years before a scheme to improve working conditions could be introduced.
Ruth Tanner, a spokesperson for War on Want, part of the Labour Behind the Label coalition, said it is ‘high time’ the British government acted to end the exploitation of overseas workers by introducing legislation.
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