Fashion retailers in sweatshop accusations

Fashion brands like Primark and Mothercare under attack over sweatshop conditions

Two major high-street stores stores have launched inquiries into claims their clothes are made by factory workers in India, who are paid just 13p per hour during a 48-hour week.

As a result, some workers stated they are forced to fall back on government food parcels as their wages don’t stretch to feeding a family.

Primark, the UK’s second biggest retailer and famous for its throwaway fashion, and mother and baby shop Mothercare, both launched inquiries following an investigation into the pay and condition of workers in Bangalore, India, who provide for a number of high-profile US and UK fashion brands.

Gokaldas Export, the biggest ready-made clothing exporters in India, who supplies to Marks & Spencer, Mothercare and H&M, confirmed that wages were as low as £1.13 for a nine-hour day, falling below the standards promised by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), which lays out the basic rights to employees.

Marks & Spencer is a member of the ETI, as are Mothercare, Gap and Primark.

Garment workers revealed they were regularly forced to work overtime and the mainly female staff was harassed and bullied by male production supervisors for failing to reach objectives.

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One tailor, who makes clothes for H&M, said up to 15 workers a day collapsed and needed medical attention, while other workers claim two tragic incidents occurred this year due to poor factory conditions.

Next and George for Asda have also come under attack for wages as low as £70 a month at Compagnie Mauricienne de Textile (CMT) based in Mauritius – the same textile factory that supplies clothes to Topshop. There, Bangladeshi employees who work up to 70 hours a week, are lured to Mauritius by recruitment agencies when companies are unable to attract local labour.

John Hilary from War on Want, said: ‘Exploitation of workers in developing countries such as India is standard practice for British retailers right across the spectrum. This just underlines the urgent need for Gordon Brown to step in now and stop these abuses once and for all.’

H&M said the harassment and forced overtime alleged was ‘unacceptable’ and it would forward the complaints to its suppliers. It said it required suppliers to pay a legal minimum wage.

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