NEws/UK: London Scheme To Beat Sweatshops

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Subject: NEws/UK: London Scheme To Beat Sweatshops
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Sat Oct 02 1999 - 15:10:40 EDT


London Scheme To Beat Sweatshops
Fran Abrams
The Independent (London), October 1, 1999

THE TEST bed for the Government's new anti-sweatshop scheme will be north
and east London, where hundreds of small garment factories operate with
little regulation.

Some, such as the Goldina factory in Tottenham where workers say they were
recently sacked for refusing to labour without pay, make goods for high
street stores. Goldina was making goods destined for sale in Next.

Goldina is a long-standing company, but others open when they win a
contract, hiring factory space and machinery, then close again when times
get tough, leaving their workforce and other creditors unpaid.

Workers, often recent immigrants from Turkey and elsewhere, often with
little or no English and sometimes with questionable immigration or
benefits status, dare not complain. They will simply seek a job elsewhere
and cut their losses.

According to government officials, trade unions and the more respectable
employers, everyone is losing out. Workers lose because their pay and
conditions are often pitiful and their surroundings unsafe. The government
loses because taxes are not paid and benefits are often used, either
legally or illegally, to make up low wages.

Decent employers lose out because they cannot compete, and the trade unions
find it almost impossible to organise in a community whose domestic and
working lives are often transient in nature. Some of the workers are
Kurdish asylum seekers, while others expect to return to Turkey after a
spell working here.

But the retailers are also responsible. They give the work to a buyer, who
gives it to someone else, and they give it to someone else, so there is no
control.

Melanie Orhant
morhant@igc.org
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