The charity War on Want has accused British supermarkets of exploiting garment workers in Bangladesh. It said the, mostly female, workers making clothes to be sold by Tesco, Asda and Primark are paid as little as 12 euros a month. The retailers give commitments to limit the work week and pay a “living wage” but workers who spoke to the charity say those rules are regularly broken by suppliers and they are forced to work 80 hours per week in unsafe factories. Over 100 workers have died this year in building collapses and fires.
Bangladesh has the cheapest garment workers in the world. The hourly minimum wage is seven euro cents. That compares with 10 cents in China and 21 cents in India. In the US it is four euros, 7.48 euros in Britain and 8.27 euros in France. Two million people work in the textile industry in Bangladesh and War on Want has calculated that wages there have halved in real terms in the last ten years.
The companies that were criticised in the report said they do carry out inspections of factories in Bangladesh and that all suppliers are closely monitored to make sure they meet ethical standards on worker welfare. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association said when they do ask for more money ton improve facilities and wages, the UK buyers threaten to move the work somewhere else.