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Britain's retailers take shirt off B'lore sweatshops

Two major retailers inquire into charges that workers who make their clothes here are paid a pittance, reports BR Srikanth.

india Updated: Sep 04, 2007 06:03 IST
BR Srikanth
BR Srikanth
Hindustan Times

Two of Britain’s big-ticket retailers have found out that factory workers who make their clothes in India are paid as little as Rs 10.50 (13 pence) per hour for a 48-hour week, The Guardian reported on Monday.

Primark, the UK’s second-biggest clothing retailer, and Mothercare, the mother and baby shop, acted in response to a Guardian investigation into the pay and conditions of workers in Bangalore who supply several top-notch UK and US brands.

The British daily had revealed that clothing exporters Gokaldas Exports Ltd and Texport Overseas were not paying their workers in line with minimum international labour standards promised by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), a code of conduct which sets out basic rights for employees across the supply chain. Marks & Spencer is a member of the ETI, as are Mothercare, Gap and Primark.

Gokaldas Exports Ltd, which supplies to brands including Marks & Spencer, Mothercare and H&M, denied such exploitation. Managing Director Rajendra Hinduja said the wages for all employees of the readymade garment industry were set by the Karnataka government on the recommendations of the wage board for the industry. “In the state capital, the minimum wage at entry level is Rs 95 a day (£1.15) for an eight-hour shift,” he told HT.

A spokesman for Texport Overseas, too, swore by the minimum wages set by the state government. “Working overtime is optional. We don’t force anyone to work beyond 12 hours (including overtime) and pay them additional wages,” he said.

However, the retailers in Britain are looking into the charges very seriously. Primark said that it had initiated immediate audits of all supplier premises. Mothercare plans to re-audit its two factories in India.

First Published: Sep 04, 2007 02:23 IST