Campaigning against Sweat Shops

Submitted by AWL on 1 October, 2002 - 6:26
  • Scandal of East End Sweatshops
    By Jean Lane
  • Indonesia: embassy protest
  • Nike's naked greed exposed!

Scandal of East End Sweatshops
Months of activity and investigation by activists from the GMB union and No Sweat have revealed evidence of a large number of East End sweatshops which pay illegal wage rates and breach basic health and safety regulations.

These sweatshops seem to be producing garments for some of the biggest high street retailers.

The 15 sweatshops listed in the GMB's latest factsheets all pay less than the legal minimum wage - currently £4.10 per hour for adults (rising to £4.20 on 1 October). One outfit pays as little as £2.66 per hour, cash, to casual workers.

Other complaints from workers include overheated and overcrowded workshops; blocked and padlocked fire exits; seven day working and 60 hour weeks; high noise levels from machinery; dust problems.

Martin Smith, GMB organiser, commented, "The companies named and shamed can get themselves off our list by complying with laws that protect the rights of workers, and allowing the GMB to verify that everything is in order."

The GMB has informed the local Tower Hamlets environmental health officials and the National Minimum Wage Inspectorate of the various abuses. The big retail firms involved are also being approached and asked to pressure their contractors to sort out wage and health and safety issues.

Obviously these official channels are only part of the campaign. No one working in a factory with blocked fire exits should have to wait to get their grievances sorted out.

The next element of the East End campaign is a combination of attempting to unionise the workers involved, and a political offensive demanding better rights and wages for all workers, plus enforcement of existing minimum wage and safety law.

There is a 'picket' of several sweatshops on the Mile End Road at 8.00 am on Thursday 3 October. For more details phone 07974 251 722 or contact No Sweat.

The next organising meeting for activists is at 7.00pm on 16 October at the Davenant Centre on Whitechapel Road.

East End No Sweat:

Indonesia: embassy protest
No Sweat activists handed in a protest letter from British trade unionists to the Indonesian embassy in London on 17 September to protest at repression aimed at preventing workers' protests against new anti-union legislation.

The letter has been signed by six British union general secretaries as well as many activists. They include:

Paul Mackney (General Secretary, Natfhe)
Billy Hayes (General Secretary, CWU)
Mick Rix (ASLEF General Secretary)
Mark Serwotka (PCS General Secretary)
Jeremy Dear, (General Secretary NUJ)
Bob Crow (General Secretary, RMT)
Paul Barber (TAPOL, Indonesia Human Rights Campaign)
Gerard van Dorp (Netherlands Centre for Indigenous Peoples)
Cambridge and District MSF/Amicus
Faz Velmi and Kat Fletcher (NUS executive members)
Ritchie Hunter (Merseyside Hazards centre)

Nike's naked greed exposed!

Campaigners handed out leaflets and placards protesting at Nike's employment practices on Sunday 22 September.

Thirty No Sweat and GMB activists took park in a protest along the Nike Fun Run at Richmond Park London. The protest was called under the slogan "No to Nike's Naked Greed" and included two of our number streaking through the finish line!
More pictures on the No Sweat website:

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