Sweatshop Shame on the High Street

Considering the millions of pounds in annual profits these retailers make, would it really kill them to pay their tailors a living wage?

The sweatshop high street

Karen McVeigh
Monday September 3, 2007
The Guardian

Gap clothes … a worker says she lost her baby after being denied leavehttp://business.guardian.co.uk/retail/story/0,,2161302,00.html

Two of Britain’s major high street retailers launched inquiries last night into allegations that factory workers who make their clothes in India are being paid as little as 13p per hour for a 48-hour week, wages so low the workers claim they sometimes have to rely on government food parcels.

[…] India’s largest ready-made clothing exporter, Gokaldas Export, which supplies brands including Marks & Spencer, Mothercare and H&M, confirmed that wages paid to garment workers were as low as £1.13 for a nine-hour day.

[…] Garment workers for factories owned by exporters who supply to Gap, Matalan and Primark, told the Guardian they were paid similar wages […]

[…] a nine-month pregnant woman from Shalina Creations, a factory supplying Gap, went into labour at work and subsequently lost her baby. Rathnamma, 27, a mother of two, claimed that she was refused immediate leave on March 29 this year, after going into labour. When she asked to go home, the production manager made her fill in forms that took an hour and a half, she said. “I was in such pain, I could hardly stand up.” When she finally made it outside the factory gates, she collapsed, she said, and gave birth to the baby in the street. A passerby helped her into an auto ricksaw, but when she got home, she discovered the baby was dead. Rathnamma, who has returned to work after being given paid leave for three months, said: “I feel angry. They gave me money, but nothing will bring the baby back. But I need the job. If I have no job, I have no food.”

Gap representatives in the US did not dispute her allegations. However, a Gap representative in India denied that she was refused immediate leave, said that she gave birth in a rickshaw, and not on the street, and claimed the baby died when it slipped from her grasp.

[…]a report by the Garment and Textile Workers union estimated a living wage in Bangalore to be at least £2.50 per day.

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