UK retailers accused over poor supply chain labour standards

8 December 2008
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08 December 2008 | Jake Kanter

The "aggressive" purchasing tactics and lack of enforcement of labour standards of three of the UK's largest retailers have led to staff in Bangladeshi garment suppliers being overworked and underpaid.

According to a report by workers' rights organisation War on Want, employees in a factory supplying clothing chain Primark were paid as little as 7p an hour for a week that lasted up to 80 hours. Similar working conditions were also found at Bangladeshi clothing manufacturers supplying Tesco and Asda.

War on Want interviewed 115 staff from six factories during August and September for its study Fashion Victims II, the second edition of a study it first carried out two years ago (Web news, 13 December 2006).

The organisation argued that the average member of staff working in the plants received less than half a living wage, taking home just £19.16 a month. In addition, none of the factories had implemented an eight-hour working day. The majority of employees worked for up to 14 hours a day, six days a week.

Primark said it constantly reviews and strives to improve conditions for workers in its supply chain, and Asda argued there was no single agreed method for calculating a standard living wage. Tesco said the group's claims were "unsubstantiated" and questioned whether the approach was constructive to the "complex issues" surrounding the Bangladeshi garment industry. All three firms added they were committed to ethical sourcing.


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