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Bangladesh: Labour abuses alleged at factory making Spice Girls T-shirts

An investigation by the Guardian newspaper has revealed that Spice Girls T-shirts sold to raise money for Comic Relief’s “gender justice” campaign were made at a factory in Gazipur, Bangladesh where women earn the equivalent of 35p an hour during shifts in which they claim to be verbally abused and harassed. 

Comic Relief said both the charity and the band had carried out ethical sourcing checks on the online retailer commissioned to make the T-shirts, Represent, but that it had subsequently changed manufacturer without their knowledge.

The company behind the factory that made the T-shirts, Interstoff Apparels, said the findings would be investigated but were “simply not true”. However, a catalogue of evidence about conditions faced by the employees was uncovered, including allegations that:

  • Some machinists are paid 8,800Tk (£82) a month, according to a recent payslip – meaning they earn the equivalent of 35p an hour for a 54-hour week. The sum is well below the 16,000Tk unions have been demanding and falls far short of living wage estimates.

  • Employees are forced to work overtime to hit “impossible” targets of sewing thousands of garments a day, meaning they are sometimes working 16-hour shifts that finish at midnight.

  • Factory workers who do not make the targets are verbally abused by management and reduced to tears. Some have been made to work despite ill-health.

British pop band the Spice Girls have said they will fund an independent investigation into working conditions at the factory. 

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