Clothes makers for UK stores earn 78p an hour

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The Independent Online

Workers making clothes at home for British stores are earning as little as 78 pence per hour, a pressure group said yesterday. The claim follows a campaign by The Independent for full information from UK stores about their social auditing and for clear country-of-origin labels on all clothes.

Workers making clothes at home for British stores are earning as little as 78 pence per hour, a pressure group said yesterday. The claim follows a campaign by The Independent for full information from UK stores about their social auditing and for clear country-of-origin labels on all clothes.

Labour Behind the Label, a group backed by charities and trades unions, said workers in many countries were making garments for wages which did not cover their basic living costs. One machinist in the UK was sewing pockets for 72 pence an hour this year. In Bulgaria, factory workers had to labour for five and a half hours to buy a pound of pork, it said.

In Indonesia, the minimum wage rose 15 per cent last year though inflation ran at 70 per cent. Local unions say wages are less than half what workers need to live on. The national minimum in Indonesia is £20 per month, but a supply of rice, vegetables and soya bean cake costs £13 and accommodation in a small shared room about £7.

Arist Merdeka Sirait, who runs a workers' advice group called Sisbikum and a foundation which educates child labourers, said factory workers often labour from 7am until 9pm seven days a week, to cover costs including transport. "The workers are angry they earn so little," he said. "The minimum wage isn't enough."

Baljit Basartia of the Aekta project, which works with labourers in the Birmingham garment industry, said factories in her area paid between £2.75 and £3 per hour, well below the national minimum wage.

Some employers told workers the UK minimum did not apply to piecework. Others issued false pay slips claiming they paid £3.60 an hour but understating the hours worked.

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