Homeworkers Worldwide is calling on Primark, a major UK clothes retailer, to recognise that homeworkers are an important part of the workforce producing garments for the world market and to ensure that homeworkers in their supply chains are entitled to the same minimum rights as other workers.
PANORAMA REVEAL POOR CONDITIONS
On June 23rd, BBC television showed a film documenting working conditions in India in some of the chains supplying clothes to Primark, currently the fastest growing UK clothes retailer.
The film focused on the poor conditions in the subcontracted work, particularly the low rates of pay for women and girls doing embroidery in their homes and child labour, in homes and small workshops. Even in one large factory in Tiripur, Tamil Nadu, India, the reporter estimated that women were working 66 hours a week in order to fulfil orders to tight deadlines.
In response to the film and the poor conditions shown in it, Primark has cancelled any future orders with three suppliers in Tiripur on the basis that they were carrying out unauthorised subcontracting.
Primark’s success on the high street is based on its low prices, quick turnaround of fashion items and high volume of sales. It also claims to be an ethical company, committed to decent conditions for all the workers producing its clothes.
But it has been demonstrated many times that pressure on suppliers to meet tight deadlines, with high volumes of garments, leads to subcontracting, and that in turn subcontractors often give out work to homeworkers. In addition, it is well known that the type of hand embroidery, sequin work and beading currently fashionable in Europe, is normally done in the home not in factories.
Homeworkers are usually women who turn to homeworking through lack of alternatives. The income they earn, however small, is vital to their family. Instead of stopping their supply of work, companies like Primark should recognise the part homeworkers play in production and ensure that they, and all other workers, receive minimum pay and conditions.
WHAT WE WANT PRIMARK TO DO
HWW would like to see Primark engage with its suppliers and acknowledge that subcontracting and homeworking are a common feature of garment production. Homeworkers should be recognised as workers and contracts with suppliers should include a clause that both workers inside the factory and any engaged through subcontractors should receive minimum pay and conditions.
Primark also has a responsibility to ensure that the prices it pays to its suppliers, in India and elsewhere, allow for decent conditions for all workers.
In order to ensure that this becomes a reality for the women workers who make up a majority of its workforce, Primark needs to recognise and negotiate with trade unions and others representing homeworkers. By cutting off contracts, Primark is only shifting the problem elsewhere; causing hardship to hundreds of workers who have lost their work and making it more difficult for them to raise their voices in future.
A leaflet and press release are available to download from the Campaigns section of our website.
For more information and to see what action you can take, see the Labour Behind the Label website at: