It’s all bad news for the Mail on Sunday.
Not only did it target the wrong people with its report stating that t-shirts proclaiming “This is what a feminist looks like” were made in a sweatshop, but now the charity that commissioned them has made it clear that the claim isn’t even accurate.
The Fawcett Society had the shirts made and sold them in Whistles shops. Yesterday it revealed that “expansive and current evidence” showed that the CMT factory in Mauritius that Whistles used to produce the shirts “conforms to ethical standards”.
The evidence shows that all of the workers are paid more than the government-mandated minimum wage and all are paid according to their skills and years of service.
The standard working week is 45 hours, and workers are compensated, at a higher rate of pay, for any overtime worked.
There is a high level of staff retention and employees are offered training and development. Workers are able to join a union and there is a union presence in the factor.
In addition, an audit into the CMT factory was carried out only last month (October 2014), by an independent not-for-profit organisation, and this did not reveal any material concerns on the working conditions, welfare or the health and safety of workers.
In many ways, it seems this factory provides better conditions than are currently available in the UK, with no zero-hours contracts, overtime paid at a higher rate, and staff training available.
Fawcett’s deputy CEO, Eva Neitzert, said the charity was not taking the evidence at face value and was examining it with the help of an international trade union.
“The evidence we have seen categorically refutes the assertion that the ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ T-shirts produced by Whistles were made in a sweatshop,” she said.
“Whilst we have confidence in the evidence provided to us, we are currently working closely with an international trade union body to scrutinise it so that we can be absolutely assured of its provenance, authenticity and that all findings are robust and factual.
“Further, whilst Fawcett has a UK remit, we are nonetheless acutely concerned with the inequalities women across the globe face. We recognise that investment in developing countries is vital and support this provided decent labour standards are adhered to.
“We will continue to work with Elle and Whistles on this project.”
The Mail on Sunday raised its objections to the shirts after Labour Party leader Ed Miliband was photographed wearing one for a special feminism-based issue of Elle magazine, and Harriet Harman wore one in the House of Commons to mock Tory leader David Cameron.
It seems Mr Cameron – who has very few women in his cabinet – had declined to wear the shirt, claiming that he did not have the time to put it on.
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