The Spice Girls have come under fire this week for commissioning T-shirts that are made by women earning just 35p an hour.
The merchandise, sold for Comic Relief’s “gender justice” campaign, was manufactured in Gazipur, Bangladesh.
Machinists worked up to 16 hours a day and suffered barrages of sexist abuse and bullying.
The T-shirts were produced at Interstoff’s factory in Gazipur. The company is co-owned by Shahriar Alam, a Bangladeshi foreign affairs minister, and makes garments for a number of British retailers including Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Mothercare.
Another factory used by Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Mothercare was forced to compensate an “outspoken” female worker after she was beaten up on the orders of management and threatened with murder.
The worker, who sat on the factory’s anti-harassment committee, was among 20 employees sacked last year after being accused of attacking factory management. The revelations follow huge strikes by tens of thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh earlier in January.
British retailers outsource exploitation and oppression to local firms.
Around four million people work in clothing factories making items for a host of high street chains.
Last September the Bangladesh government promised clothing workers that the minimum wage would be increased to £92 a month. But workers rightly demanded £147 a month—double the current amount.
After weeks of unrest, workers struck on 6 January demanding better pay and encountered brutal repression. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at strike rallies.
It shows how even the lowest paid workers aren’t just passive victims of bullying bosses—and can fight back.
They won some small gains economically, but most importantly increased their organisation and reaffirmed their fighting spirit. Bosses were outraged. Now unions and local rights groups say over 1,400 workers have been sacked.
Some only found out by seeing their name and photo posted on the factory gates when they turned up to work.
The movement against poverty wages in Bangladesh can’t be reduced to which shops people choose to buy from.
The blame doesn’t lie with ordinary people buying cheap clothes, but with bosses.
Workers in Bangladesh are showing the best way to fight back.
Supporting them means stripping away the “acceptable” face of British multinational retailers and attacking their disgusting alliance with anti-union firms.
Against the global chains of capitalist exploitation we need the power of workers’ international solidarity.