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2007 National Women's Conference
26 January 2007

This conference notes the War on Want report “Fashion Victims, The true cost of cheap clothes and Primark, Asda and Tesco” published on 8th December 2006, which highlighted the working conditions of the predominantly female workforce within the textile factories in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which produces clothes for Primark, Asda and Tesco.

This report found that in order to maintain the low cost that these retailers sell at, the cost of production has also been driven down to such an extent that workers highlighted in the report earn as little as £8 per month, which is less than a third of the most conservative estimates of the minimum required to live on in Bangladesh. Over the course of the last 15 years the minimum wage for garment workers in Bangladesh as halved in real terms meaning that pay is too low to cover food, housing and healthcare. The report also drew attention to hours that workers in these sweatshops are regularly forced to work, up to 96 hours a week, which is double the maximum that Primark, Asda and Tesco have promised that their suppliers will work. These factories and hundreds like them are not trade unionised.

Greater proportions of women are now in the formal employment market in each continent of the world. Conference is concerned that globalisation and the rising levels of employment of women, without adequate employment protection, has had a detrimental effect on the lives of children and families.

Conference also notes that these retailers actively market their products to women, and in particular women on low incomes. Their advertisements concentrate on getting the latest fashions for low prices, emphasising that they expect women to be their predominant customers.

Conference recognises that these 3 retailers are some of the biggest in the world and have a multi-million profit margin. Therefore it is immoral that they should be making these profits on the backs of sweatshop labour. Conference believes that consumer pressure is one of the strongest ways of changing the behaviour of the multinational companies, yet there is also a role for government, trade unions and the ILO to play.

Conference calls on the National Women’s Committee to

1)Write to the managing directors of Asda, Tesco and Primark to voice our opposition to the ways that they source their suppliers and the effects that it has on the communities.

2)Promote the War on Want Campaign to Regional Women’s Committees

3)Work with War on Want to further the aims of their campaign