Sweatshops paying workers half what they need to live

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The Independent Online

Workers making clothes for British high street stores receive around half of the money they need to live a decent life, according to a new report out today.

Launched on the eve of London Fashion Week, the report by anti-poverty campaigners suggested staff at suppliers in countries such as Bangladesh and China cannot afford basic items, education or medicine.

The charity War on Want and the sweatshop campaign Labour Behind the Label wrote the report, Let's Clean up Fashion, after checking the sourcing policies of 23 national retailers.

Only three accepted the need for a significant improvement in pay and had "apparent genuine plans" to do so: Gap, New Look and Next. Twelve retailers did not respond – Bhs, Diesel, House of Fraser, Kookai, Matalan, Mk One, Moss Bros, Mothercare, Peacocks/Bon Marche, River Island, Rohan Designs and Ted Baker.

One Bangladeshi worker, Mohua, who earns about £16 a month making clothes for Asda and Tesco, told researchers: "The wages I get are not enough to cover the cost of food, house rent and medicine." In Sri Lanka, workers sewing school dresses for M&S received just 10p of its £6 retail value.

"On average, workers received between 46 per cent and 60 per cent of a "living wage" – the amount needed to meet basic needs.

Retailer Alan Roberts, chairman of the Ethical Trading Initiative, says there is a process of "continuous improvement" in conditions. Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer for War on Want, called on the Government to introduce laws to stop companies exploiting workers.