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Press Releases

Giant Retailers Cashing in on Poverty Wages
Tuesday, 10 February 2009 15:18

Carrefour, Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, Walmart profit while supply chain workers face rights violations

Amsterdam, 10 February 2009 – Major global retailers Carrefour, Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, and Walmart are seeing massive profits and increasing market share in the garment sector, as workers in their supply chains face increasing poverty, appalling conditions, and serious workers rights violations, according to a new report released today by the Clean Clothes Campaign.

“With a heavy heart we live like prisoners,” said one young woman working at a Bangladesh factory producing for Carrefour, Tesco, and Walmart where there is no union and workers are told to lie to auditors about working conditions.

As the economic crisis worsens around the globe, CCC research in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Thailand published today in “Cashing In: Giant retailers, purchasing practices, and working conditions in the garment industry” shows how the discounter model used by these retailers squeezes suppliers and results in serious workers’ rights violations in their supply chains – enabling them to cash in as consumers and workers are forced to tighten their belts.

Workers at factories supplying these retailers told researchers about working weeks as high as 90 hours, overtime that is unpaid, wages so low that families are malnourished, and strong resistance to any attempts at worker organising. At the same time suppliers revealed how the supermarkets are cranking up the pressure to deliver faster and produce cheaper – a model that makes a mockery of the social commitments made by these companies.

As one worker at an Indian supplier for Carrefour, Tesco, and Walmart said of a corporate code of conduct: “We don’t read this, because reading it would not benefit us. We don’t get the benefits mentioned in it.”

The report reveals that failure to pay a living wage, increased use of temporary contracts, repression of union rights, excessive hours, and gender discrimination are key problems in the garment supply chains of these five global retailers. Retailers’ own purchasing practices – prices and schedules they impose on suppliers – create some of the biggest obstacles to implementing the very international labour standards they have committed to.

“The Giants size and price-breaking approach make them leaders in the global race to the bottom on working conditions,” said Nina Ascoly, of the CCC’s International Secretariat.

FOR MORE INFORMATION READ “CASHING IN”:
• Download the executive summary:
www.cleanclothes.org/betterbargain/images/docs/summary.pdf
• Download the full report:
http://www.cleanclothes.org/component/docman/doc_download/1-cashing-in

*** Notes to editors ***
1. The Clean Clothes Campaign is an international network of trade unions and NGOs that works to improve conditions and empower workers in the global garment industry. The CCC network is made up for campaigns in 12 European countries and a worldwide network of 250 organisations.

2. All the retailers featured in the report have signed up to some form of labour rights code or initiative but they have done far too little to implement these standards. With profits in the billions, the Giants have the power to do much more. CCC’s Cashing In report lays out steps the Giants should take to improve conditions for garment workers in their supply chains. CCC is also seeking stronger action from governments, a call only strengthened by the recession’s flurry of corporate cost cutting which threatens even more extreme exploitation of the workers at the sharp end of the Giants increasingly cheap clothes. Read CCC’s recommendations for the Giants and others at www.cleanclothes.org/betterbargain/images/docs/recommendations.pdf

3. The Cashing In reports marks the launch of the CCC’s international Better Bargain campaign which shines a spotlight on the real cost of discounter clothing. For more informations see: www.cleanclothes.org/betterbargain/

4. For additional company-specific interviews/background info contact the following:

Carrefour:
Carole Crabbe: tel. +32-49877 2313
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Nayla Ajaltouni: tel. +33-662-53-3456
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2
Walmart:
Trina Tocco: tel. +1-269-873-1000
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Tesco:
Sam Maher: tel. +44-751 751 6943
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Aldi:
Dominic Kloos: tel. +49 - (0)2241 - 259549
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Lidl
Gisela Burckhardt: tel. +49-228-94499682
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