War on Want interviewed 1,000 female employees from 41 factories

War on Want interviewed 1,000 female employees from 41 factories

The plight of workers in Bangladesh's garment factories has come under the spotlight again, with a new report claiming thousands of women are working 14 hours a day producing clothes for poverty pay.

The accusation from War on Want comes after the charity interviewed 1,000 female employees from 41 factories supplying western retailers, many of them British.

The findings, published in a new report called 'Stitched Up,' reveal the vast majority of garments from Bangladesh sold in UK stores are made by women aged 18-32 years old - of similar ages to many British females who buy them.

But the workers say they are struggling to survive amid poor pay and conditions. Sewing operators' wages start at BDT3,861 (US$51.7 or GBP32) a month and for helpers at BDT3,000 (GBP25) a month.

Yet women interviewed cited their average household expenditure on basic needs, like food and housing, as BDT8,896 (GBP75) a month.

"For years retailers have broken their pledges to ensure the workers behind their profits are paid a living wage, on which they can afford at least to meet their basic needs," War on Want campaigns and policy director Greg Muttitt said.

"Our new research shows that British high street fashion has still failed to clean up its act. It is high time the UK government stopped this abuse."

Eight in ten women interviewed for the report said they worked between 12-14 hours a day - some 16 hours a day - with no overtime pay for the extra hours to meet production targets.

Seven in ten women claimed managers swore at them, around half had suffered beatings or been hit in the face, and nearly one in three reported sexual harassment.

Though Bangladeshi law requires factories with over 40 women workers to provide children's facilities, three in five women interviewed said their companies failed to comply.

Leading retailers - including Zara, Gap, Marks & Spencer, Monsoon Accessorize,New Look, Primark, River Island and Tesco - have pledged to observe a code of conduct with the Ethical Trading Initiative which says that suppliers' workers earn a living wage, do not work over 48 hours a week or face abuse.