‘It takes a day and a night to visit my girl’

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Femail -

THE huge Baby­lon com­plex lies on a busy main road in Mirza­pur. In­side, thou­sands of work­ers sweat away mak­ing school shirts for Ge­orge at Asda. The MoS watched as the gar­ments were sewn to­gether on the pro­duc­tion line – un­der signs with the Asda logo.

Ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Mo­ham­mad Hasan boasted of their glow­ing med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties, as­sis­tance to im­prove work­ers’ lit­er­ary skills and child­care fa­cil­i­ties.

But out­side the fac­tory walls, life for the work­ers is a dif­fer­ent story. Rena, 22, has been work­ing as a helper at Baby­lon for a year – but re­ceives a salary of just 5,550 taka a month (£49.69), or just un­der 26p an hour.

She is mar­ried and lives 25 min­utes away in a one-roomed home with her hus­band.

To save money, her sev­enyear-old daugh­ter lives far away with rel­a­tives.

It takes ‘a day and a night’ if she wants to go and visit, cost­ing £9 for the jour­ney, so she can only af­ford to visit her child once every six months.

She said: ‘I would re­ally like to see her more but I can’t see my salary get­ting higher be­cause the pay for a helper is fixed. I also have her school fees to pay, which costs 500 taka a month.’

Mr Hasan said last night: ‘Min­i­mum wages of 5,300 taka are only ap­pli­ca­ble for helpers or en­try-level work­ers. The to­tal of en­try level work­ers is less than ten per cent.’

He added that em­ploy­ees re­ceive at­ten­dance bonuses, over­time pay­ments and other ben­e­fits and that en­try work­ers can earn £54 a month (28p an hour) as a re­sult. He said it was dif­fi­cult to ne­go­ti­ate with the UK on price be­cause: ‘If I don’t ac­cept, some­one else gets it.

‘No one wants a fac­tory with­out business.’

An Asda spokesper­son said: ‘We ex­pect our sup­pli­ers to treat their work­ers with re­spect and dig­nity and we take al­le­ga­tions re­gard­ing mis­treat­ment of work­ers se­ri­ously. We con­tin­u­ously re­ex­am­ine our ef­forts to drive re­spon­si­bil­ity in our global sup­ply chain, in­clud­ing in re­la­tion to worker con­di­tions, vol­un­tary labour, for­eign work­ers and wages.’

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