Monday, 3 November 2014

Fawcett Society T-Shirts

The Mail On Sunday have published a story alleging that the Fawcett Society's "This is what a feminist looks like" T-shirts are made by women earning the equivalent of 62p per hour working in sweatshop conditions in Mauritius.

Isn't it good of the Mail to expose these conditions, bringing them to our attention so we can be aware of what is going on.  I mean, there couldn't possibly be another agenda at work here, could there?

Ah, but there is.  Ed Milliband, Nick Clegg and Harriet Harman were all pictured wearing this T-shirt last week, while Prime Minister David Cameron declined.  This bought some negative publicity for the PM, and positive publicity for the others.

The Mail's headline for their expose refers to "Ed & Harriet's £45 T-Shirts".  Would the headline refer to "David's T-Shirt" if the PM had worn one?  I doubt it.

The Mail's story indeed makes for uncomfortable reading, detailing the women sleeping in dormitories of 16 to a room, and being unable to see their families.

The boss of the factory was quoted as saying "They are free to come and go as they please but if they go out on a weeknight I will not be happy because then they will turn up for work the next day hungover."  In other words, they are treated like children.

The Fawcett Society has said in response:

“We have been very disappointed to hear the allegations that conditions in the Mauritius factory may not adhere to the ethical standards that we, as the Fawcett Society, would require of any product that bears our name. At this stage, we require evidence to back up the claims being made by a journalist at the Mail on Sunday. However, as a charity that campaigns on issues of women’s economic equality, we take these allegations extremely seriously and will do our utmost to investigate them.

“If any concrete and verifiable evidence of mistreatment of the garment producers emerges, we will require Whistles to withdraw the range with immediate effect and donate part of the profits to an ethical trading campaigning body.

“Whilst we wish to apologise to all those concerned who may have experienced adverse conditions, we remain confident that we took every practicable and reasonable step to ensure that the range would be ethically produced and await a fuller understanding of the circumstances under which the garments were produced.”  Full response here.

Unfortunately, instead of wishing to work with the Fawcett Society to uncover the truth about the manufacture of the T-Shirts and bring about positive change, the Mail has chosen to use the story for petty political point scoring.  The article makes a disparaging reference to Nick Clegg "having no idea" about the conditions at the factory.

I wonder if Ben Ellery - the author of the article - knows where and how every item in his wardrobe was made?

People working under the conditions mentioned in the article need helping, and there needs to be action to force the owners of the factories etc to conform to ethical standards.

Using the people working under these conditions for petty political point scoring will not help.

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