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Business News 2009
Business News->New Primark store faces 'Anti-Sweatshops' storm
New Primark store faces 'Anti-Sweatshops' storm

Thursday, 12 November 2009

War on Want protestors outside the new Primark store in Wood Green, LondonAs Primark's new London store opened today, anti-poverty campaigners hung out the retailer's 'dirty washing' in public with a clothes line that cited workers making its clothes for as little as 7p an hour. The charity War on Want staged a demonstration amid the store launch days after Primark announced a massive 20 per cent jump in sales to £2.3 billion for the year to 12 September and profits up 8 per cent to £252 million. It compared Primark's growth with declining living standards among garment workers on poverty wages for up to 80-hour weeks in three Bangladeshi factories.

The charity also contrasted the Wood Green store's 75,000 square feet on two floors with the tiny one-room slum homes Primark garment workers share with four or five family members. War on Want campaigner Seb Klier said: '"Primark has just reported huge sales and profits. But for many Bangladeshis producing its clothes their grim living standards are falling even lower as costs rise. It is high time Gordon Brown introduced regulation to stop this abuse."

According to War on Want research, workers making clothes for Primark in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka received on average only £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, under half a living wage. Some employees were paid only the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, far less than the £44.82 (5333 taka) needed to escape dire hardship. The vast majority of employees live in small, crowded shacks, many of which lack plumbing and adequate washing facilities. Though forced overtime is illegal in Bangladesh, employees said they were made to toil extra hours, often unpaid. Workers complained that in the fast fashion rush to produce the latest styles, many of them suffered verbal and physical abuse as they struggled to meet unrealistic targets. Yet the Dhaka workers said none of their factories was unionised. Ifat, who toils in a factory supplying all three retailers, said: "I can't feed my children three meals a day."

The charity targeted the store opening in north London to step up the biggest-ever call for British government action to stop fashion retailers exploiting overseas workers. Thousands of people have already signed up to the Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign for 50,000 names demanding that Brown regulates the industry.

Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops is also endorsed by television star Jo Wood, pop singer Little Boots, actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Ashley Jensen and clothes designer Betty Jackson. Among other backers are TV personality Tony Robinson, actor-playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, comedians Jo Brand and Francesca Martinez and gardener Bob Flowerdew.

Supportive public figures include Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of Unite, the UK's largest trade union, Mary Turner, president of the GMB union, Queen's Counsel Michael Mansfield, the leading human rights lawyer, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, journalist John Pilger and cartoonist Martin Rowson.

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