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Bangladesh factory workers making Spice Girls 'gender justice' T-shirts earn $2 a day

Newshub logoNewshub 20/01/2019 Vita Molyneux
a close up of a person © Provided by MediaWorks NZ Limited

Factory workers in Bangladesh say they are suffering inhumane working conditions sewing charity T-shirts for the Spice Girls. 

The shirts retail for NZ$37, and according to the website selling them, all proceeds support charities that are "trying to tackle women's issues via Comic Relief's Gender Justice initiative".

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A worker for Interstoff Apparel, the company that manufactures the shirts, says employees work 16-hour days with no sick leave, no breaks and suffer verbal abuse from their management.

They are paid 5,000 Bangladeshi taka (NZ$88.46) per month (roughly NZ$2 per day), reports The Guardian.

a group of people posing for the camera © Provided by MediaWorks NZ Limited  

Salma (name changed to protect her identity) works as a machinist for the factory. She told The Guardian about the consequences for not reaching target, which can be up to 2000 garments a day.

"The chances are high that she'd get verbally scolded very badly. She might even get called inside the office of the production manager and get verbally abused."

She says some of the abuse is so obscene that she cannot repeat it.

Salma, who is in her mid-thirties, says workers are expected to do overtime, even if they are sick or pregnant.

"Many workers don't want to do the overtime, sometimes they even cry when management make them do the overtime forcefully. There was a worker I knew who was pregnant, and she was forced to do night duty on top of her regular hours and overtime," she says.

"She was crying all the time. One day she was throwing up and she repeatedly said she's not feeling well. Still, she was forced to work late."

Other workers offered to take the pregnant woman's shifts, but Salma says management insisted that the woman finish her shift herself.

"Fainting is pretty common. Especially during the hot summer. Also, the huge workloads put a lot of pressure on the workers. Sometimes they just fall from their chairs. It happens every month," Salma told The Guardian.

A spokesperson for the Spice Girls said that they were "deeply shocked and appalled" by the news, adding that they will "personally fund an investigation into the factory's working conditions".

However, Interstoff Apparel claimed that the accusations were "simply not true."

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