25p AN HOUR
That’s the pitiful amount this mother is paid to make bargain school uniforms for British children . . . ...It’s so little she can only afford to see her OWN son twice a year
MOTHERS making bargainbasement British school uniforms in sweltering factories are being paid just 25p an hour, a Mail on Sunday investigation has found.
The ‘poverty wages’ leave many of the women in Bangladesh making the clothes for Tesco, Asda and other leading chains unable to send their own children to school.
Some of the mothers are forced to live hundreds of miles away from their families and can only afford to make the journey twice a year.
Our investigation comes after parents in this country snapped up school uniforms costing just a few pounds ahead of the start of the new school year.
Our journalists travelled to Bangladesh to find out about the conditions in the factories where the garments are churned out for stores including Aldi and Next. They discovered:
Mothers living with their entire families in one-room tin shacks in slums;
A female worker who had to take her bright 14-year-old son out of school to work on a tea stall to boost the family’s meagre income;
Employees complaining of having to work gruelling 12-hour shifts in stifling conditions;
The Bangladesh national minimum wage paid to many of the women is barely a third of what they need to live, according to campaigners.
At one factory, called NAZ, where Aldi polo shirts costing just £1.95 for two in the UK are made, a young mother told us she is paid the legal minimum wage of 5,300 Bangladeshi taka (£47.46) a month.
She also gets an extra 500 taka (£4.48) as a punctuality bonus – but misses out if she is more than five minutes late on more than three days in a month.
Her timesheet, seen by the MoS, included a column for lateness – recorded down to the second.
The basic salary equates to just 25p an hour, based on a six-day, 48hour week, but many of the employees work long hours of overtime to boost their pay packets.
Many of the women we spoke to are migrant labourers forced to live hundreds of miles away from their children who they can only afford to see twice a year.
Other workers at the NAZ factory producing Aldi clothes in Mirzapur, 40 miles from the capital Dhaka, complained of being made to work gruelling 12-hour shifts and up to 74 hours a week – more than the legal maximum of 60 hours – in stifling heat without enough fans.
Aldi announced an immediate investigation into the workers’ allegations last night and said they would launch a full audit into the factory.
The same factory is used by Tesco for other garments and according to the NAZ website, Tesco conferred an ‘outstanding partnership in corporate social responsibility’ on the firm last year.
Managers at one of a number of factories around Dhaka visited by the MoS told us they would like to pay workers more but were unable to because retailers insist on paying rock-bottom rates at every stage of the supply chain.
One mother, whose ten-year-old daughter has frequently missed school because of the cost, told us: ‘To hear that a school shirt costs the same as a cup of coffee in Britain makes me very surprised.
‘For British parents who buy these cheap uniforms, I would like them to realise how hard we work. If the companies charged just a little more for the skirts, the shirts, we would have better lives.
‘It would be better for our children too. Our lives are very hard.’
Dominique Muller, policy manager for anti-sweatshop campaigners Labour Behind The
‘UK parents should know how hard our life is’
Label, said: ‘In Bangladesh, the minimum wage is far below the UN figure for the poverty line wage. That in itself is quite incredible.
‘Because these garment workers are paid really low wages, they find themselves doing extra hours where they can, doing as much overtime as possible.
‘This is a poverty wage – they are unable to send their kids to school, unable to save.
‘Many don’t have proper insurance, so some may get into debt if something such as a medical problem arises.
‘Earlier this year, there were protests around increasing the minimum wage in Bangladesh – and around 3,500 people were dismissed from their jobs.
‘Union officials in the factories were also arrested and charged for a variety of offences.
‘There are various calculations for what constitutes the living wage in Bangladesh. But the lowest is around 15,000 taka (£134.31) a month (70p an hour).
‘The retailers are complicit in keeping down the wages.
‘In fast fashion, they really push the supplier with deadlines for a quick turnover and get as much profit as they can from them.
‘Suppliers often use short-term contracts to get an order completed and keep the costs down by keeping labour costs down.’
TRUE PRICE: Aldi boys’ school polo shirts cost just £1.95 for two. But workers who make them say the cost to their families is terrible – we have obscured this woman’s identity to protect her job