Mauritian factory producing feminist t-shirts denies newspaper's allegations

3 November 2014

The clothing manufacturer in Whistles' supply chain accused of employing its workers in "sweatshop conditions" has strongly denied the allegations, citing recent successful audits undertaken of its facility.

CMT (Compagnie Mauricienne de Textile) had produced the t-shirts, which feature the slogan ‘This is what a feminist looks like’, for Whistles as part of a campaign to promote feminism by the Fawcett Society and Elle magazine. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband have been photographed wearing the t-shirts.

Mail on Sunday story suggested that CMT employees were working for 62p an hour – a quarter of the country’s average wage - and were treated "poorly", working "excessive hours".

In September this year, CMT was audited four times under the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and Sedex Members’ Ethical Trade Audits (SMETA) by certification company INTERTEK. Last year four BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) and four SMETA audits were also undertaken.

"The audits were passed successfully and there was never any non-compliance issues regarding excessive overtime hours," CMT said in a statement. "CMT has always promoted the image of Mauritius as an ethical sourcing destination and always acted as a flagship for the country."

The company also stated that it renumerates its workers "well above" the prescribed wage in Mauritius of Rs4,264.52 (£84.68) per month, and provides free accommodation and three daily meals, medical expenses and all employment costs such as work permits and recruitment agency fees.

"The allegations made against CMT in the article are totally untrue and have been made with ill intentions," CMT stated. "It is evident that the aim of the [Mail on Sunday] article was to discredit targeted political figures in the UK who wore the t-shirt. We were shocked by the contents of the article and the way things were distorted."

In a statement, Whistles reiterated its commitment to ethical sourcing policies in the manufacture of its garments and confirmed it will undertake reviews of all its suppliers. "We demand the highest standards from our suppliers and carry out regular audits, both at the time of appointing an supplier and then continuously throughout our contractual relationship with them," it read. "Whistles will continue to work with CMT to review the pay and work conditions at their factory."

The Fawcett Society welcomed the "expansive and current" evidence from CMT and confirmed it would continue to work with Whistles and Elle on the campaign. "We have been particularly pleased to receive evidence that an audit into the CMT factory was carried out in October 2014 by an independent, not-for-profit organisation and this did not reveal any material concern on the working conditions, the welfare or health and safety of the workers," Eva Neitzert, deputy CEO said.

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