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

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Femail - From Char­lotte Wace and Abul Ta­her IN DHAKA

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

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