Workers sweat at home for pounds 9 a week

Britain's 1.2 million homeworkers are worse off than they were a century ago with some earning as little as 15p an hour, according to an investigation by the National Group of Homeworking, writes Barrie Clement.

In its study No Sweat! the group reports that one woman spent 60 hours a week packing gift-tags for a total wage of pounds 9.

The report marks the 90th anniversary of the Sweated Trades Exhibition in the West End of London which led to the establishment of a statutory minimum wage.

The study, backed by the TUC, found that the average hourly pay rate for homeworkers was just pounds 1.28.

The study argues that workers' real pay rates were even lower when offset against their other costs. Some 40 per cent bought their own machinery and 50 per cent bought their own materials.

Ursula Huws, author of the document, said traditional forms of homework including sewing and packing was widespread.

Following the abolition of wages councils, which set minimum pay rates, homeworkers had no legal protection against "poverty pay" the report said.

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