Workers ‘paid 35p per hour’ to make Spice Girls t-shirts

Workers ‘paid 35p per hour’ to make Spice Girls t-shirts

Spice Girls wearing the #IWannaBeASpicegirl t-shirts. Image: Spice Girls/Instagram

Monday, January 21, 2019

Comic Relief has said it is “shocked and concerned” by a report alleging that Spice Girls t-shirts sold to support its “gender justice” campaign were made by staff paid the equivalent of 35p per hour.

The t-shirts, which had the message #IWannaBeASpicegirl, were allegedly made at a factory in Bangladesh where one worker claimed the mainly female workforce were verbally abused and overworked, the Guardian newspaper reported.

The £19.40 tops have been modelled online by celebrities including presenter Holly Willoughby, singer Sam Smith, and Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill.

Comic Relief said the online retailer commissioned to make the t-shirts had switched suppliers without telling either it or the Spice Girls, away from an agreed supplier which had been ethically vetted.

A spokeswoman said: "Comic Relief is shocked and concerned by the allegations in The Guardian.

"No-one should have to work under the conditions described in the piece.

"To be very clear, both Comic Relief and the Spice Girls carried out ethical sourcing checks on the supplier Represent told us they would be using for production of the t-shirts."


'Deeply disturbed' 

Online retailer Represent said it was "deeply disturbed" by the allegations, which it described as "appalling and unacceptable".

"Represent has strict ethical sourcing standards for all of our manufacturers," the company said.

"Comic Relief and Spice Girls did everything in their power to ensure ethical sourcing."

Represent said it had chosen a supplier because it believed it had a reputation for upholding ethical standards.

The company said it took "full responsibility" for choosing the supplier, adding: "(We) confirm that this is something that we didn't bring to the attention of Spice Girls or Comic Relief.

"We will make refunds available on request to anyone who bought a shirt."


'Poverty wages' 

Asad Rehman, Executive Director of anti-poverty charity War on Want said this was “a problem of the whole garment industry”.

He told talkRADIO’s Mike Graham: “What we are seeing is a story of low-pay and exploitation but also the race to the bottom for cheaper fashion and to protect the bottom line of big UK retailers

“Many of our big retailers source their garments from these factories. What we have got is employers setting unrealistic production targets, which create conditions of exploitation and harassment.

“This includes stories where people are not able to take sick leave, have been forced to work unpaid overtime and being paid poverty wages.”