Lanka labourers earning basic wages while producing for UK fashion retailers

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Colombo, Jan.31 (ANI): Factory workers in Sri Lanka are struggling to survive on basic wages as low as 25 pence an hour to produce clothes for leading British retailers, who say they abide by an ethical trading initiative intended to protect employees' rights.

Thousands of women work six days a week to take home a basic wage of less than 50 pounds a month, reports The Sunday Times.

Some factory owners and retailers admit that the basic wages are insufficient to live on, but add they are dictated by fierce international competition.

"We need to find ways of paying them about 15,000 rupees, at least, to allow them to live," the paper quoted Tony Nadaraja, chief executive of the Hirdaramani Group, a company that supplies Marks and Spencer, Tesco and Asda, as saying.

Retailers often publicise their membership of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), which promotes a code of conduct on workers' rights.

It says that a "living wage" ought to be paid - "enough to meet basic needs and to provide some discretionary income". Employees should not have to work more than 48 hours a week on a regular basis.

The ETI admits there is a gulf between the code and actual pay.

"The deplorable reality is that low wages remain a fact of life for many garment workers," said Stephen Rylance, its spokesman.

In a statement the ETI said that its members, including M and S, Next, Tesco and Asda, were "at the forefront of good practice".

But "in this case the poorest-paid workers are saying they are struggling to meet basic needs. For those, even the efforts of the most responsible retailers are not yet good enough".

The paper interviewed more than 60 employees of 16 factories before coming out with their report. (ANI)

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