Miserly spirit found in Christmas crackers

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The Independent Online
Homeworkers in Britain are paid between 1p and 2p for making a Christmas cracker which sells in the shops for anything up to pounds 2.50.

Boots the chemist is supplied by homeworker "sub-contractors" who earn just over 2p, while workers contracted to Fine Art Developments, which supplies many high-street retailers, receive around 1.5p. The National Group on Homeworking estimates that some people are paid much less than 1p.

Ian McCartney, Labour's employment spokesman, described the work as "slave labour", adding: "Scrooge [still] exists."

Denise McKenna, acting co-ordinator of the group, said that the pay of homeworkers who supplied Boots was at the top of the range: "Many are paid far less... If you are desperate you will work for virtually nothing."

A spokeswoman for Boots pointed out that the retail price included materials, transport and retail costs. Jayne Mayled, head of customer services at the company, insisted in a letter to Mr McCartney that the flexibility offered to workers was often very attractive to those with family responsibilities.

She said typical earnings per week ranged from pounds 25 to pounds 166, with one worker earning pounds 221 - but it should be emphasised that each home-worker could decide how much he or she wished to undertake.

A spokesman for Fine Art Developments said trials had shown that homeworkers were capable of earning pounds 6 an hour.

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