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January 23, 2019

Charity T-shirts made by women on “poverty wages”

UK charity Comic Relief has said it is "shocked and concerned" over allegations charity T-shirts sold for GBP19.40 (US$25) have been produced by women in Bangladesh earning just 35p an hour.

By Hannah Abdulla

T-shirts made for UK charity Comic Relief by women in Bangladesh earning 35p an hour reflect the “realities of global supply chains,” the IndustriAll global union has said.

The Spice Girl T-shirts were sold for Comic Relief’s gender justice campaign for GBP19.40 per shirt (US$25), and according to IndustriAll were made in a factory part-owned by a government minister in Bangladesh.

“The bitter irony of a T-shirt promoting gender justice being made by women on poverty wages reflects an ongoing disconnect between campaigners in the West, and the realities of global supply chains,” the union said.

“This shows a failure in ethical procurement processes which should be standard in any charity – but it also reveals the difficulty of doing due diligence properly. Supply chains are opaque by design. Hiding the circumstances in which products are made allows retailers to claim plausible deniability. To put it simply, we cannot trust what retailers say about their sourcing practices, and self-regulation has no credibility.

“We need transparency, strong unions and clear sourcing guidelines. This can only come about with a structural change in the relationships between production, sourcing and retail, with a clear role for workers’ representatives.”

IndustriAll is also calling for a UN treaty and an ILO Convention on supply chains, and is urging “more brands to come on board and support initiatives that deliver true accountability.”

In a response on its website, Comic Relief said it was “shocked and concerned” over the allegations, which were made by the Guardian newspaper. “No one should have to work under the conditions described in the piece.”

It added that “ethical sourcing checks were carried out on the supplier Represent told us they would be using for the production of the T-shirts.

“Represent then switched the supplier to Stanley/Stella, who used the factory where this alleged mistreatment occurred, without telling either the Spice Girls or Comic Relief. Represent have acknowledged this in their statement and have taken full responsibility for the selection of Stanley/Stella. We have requested an independent investigation of the factory.

“Represent have confirmed they will be providing refunds.”

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