Thursday, 26 June 2008

"Tesco slave labour row"

Here we go again...

Tesco is accused today of exploiting workers who are paid an average 16p an hour. A damaging investigation alleges that Britain's biggest retailer - which made a £2.8 billion profit last year - is being supplied by an Indian factory where textile workers earn, on average, £8.75 for a 54-hour, six-day week.

From earlier 'research', we established that a typical salary in India is about £900 a year. Fifty-two weeks @ £8.75 = £455, so the salary that these textile workers isn't brilliant or anything, but it's probably enough to pay for life's essentials.

Actually, the article gets better and better ...

... the factory in Bangalore, which is not being named for fear of reprisals from bosses, make clothes on a contract basis for Tesco's hugely successful Florence and Fred range.

I happen to be wearing an Florence & Fred tie, but having checked the label, I can confirm that mine was Made In China, where I am sure that workers are treated much better. Plus they don't have as many mouths to feed. What does "for fear of reprisals from bosses" mean? Are they going to burn down their own factories in protest or something?

War on Want claims as many as four out of five women examined by doctors for the Indian workers' rights organisation Cividep showed evidence of malnutrition. The price of rice in India is said to have risen 20 per cent over the last year.

And Tesco is responsible for the world market price for rice ... how exactly? They've doubled the prices over here to reduce demand, there's not much more they can do, is there?

The Bangalore Garment and Textile Workers' Union has calculated that a living wage should be £52 a month.

Which is £13 a week, which illustrates my point that £8.75 a week ain't as bad as it first sounds.

See also The Daily Mash.

(And if 16p an hour in The Third World is low, don't forget that UK welfare claimants on the National Minimum Wage have a net hourly salary of as little 24p, once you take into account tax, NI and benefits withdrawal.)


Bill Quango MP said...

So the answer is?
Suppliers must only source goods from factories that pay above the minimum wage? I suppose so.
But wouldn't that create inflation?
All manufactures would need to raise wages in order to compete for the best ethical contracts. But the increased wage costs would increase UK prices to pay for them surely?

Ohh the problems of globalisation...

I know, I know I've missed the bit out about TESCO making less profits but is that really going to happen.

Mark Wadsworth said...

There is no 'answer'!

India only exports a fifth of the textiles it produces (scroll down to 'Task ahead') so if ALL western buyers formed a buying cartell, that would still leave 80% of Indian textile workers in low paid jobs. And what if the 'minimum age' is lower in e.g. Vietnam? Is it more 'ethical' to import from a country with a lower minimum wage?

Ergo, if in doubt, do nothing and let the markets decide.

Bill Quango MP said...

MW: No you are so wrong. Listen to the media. We in the UK are the centre of the world and we alone can solve all of the worlds problems from oil prices to food shortages to global warming to wars to equality or despot leaders.
I heard Goblin just this week talking about solving all of these things himself.

The markets... pah! what do they know.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't give a toss how much they get an hour. As long as I get a bargain! Maybe the Indian government could divert some of the 3.5 billion quid its spending on its 'space programme' to ease its citizens suffering.