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ETI stands by Asda over ‘poverty wages’ allegations

The Ethical Trading Initiative has ruled out suspending Asda’s as one of its members, despite allegations of poverty wages in the UK retailer’s supply chain.  

Asda has been attacked by the NGO ActionAid over alleged abuse of workers, excessive overtime and poor pay in its clothing supply chain in Bangladesh.
The charity is campaigning to force Asda into paying a living wage, with the headline statement: ‘Even though it makes £45million ($72m, €51m) profit worldwide every single day, Asda refuses to pay workers a decent wage.’

However, the ETI, an alliance of companies and voluntary organizations that pledges to improve the lives of workers in consumer goods manufacturing, has stood by Asda, urging ActionAid to work ‘constructively’ with the company, and refusing itself to take action.

It says Asda is one of ‘a very small number’ of UK retailers considering fair pay and conditions in its supply chain, though the Co-operative, Marks & Spencer, Next, Sainsbury, Tesco and a number of other large companies belong to the organization.

Asda factories are accused of forcing staff to work more than 60 hours a week as standard, including back-to-back shifts, and paying them the equivalent of £33 ($53, €37.50) a month.

The ETI, whose motto is Respect for Workers Worldwide, said: ‘Asda is a longstanding and active member of ETI and is one of a very small number of UK retailers that is seriously tackling the challenge of raising wages on a sustainable basis in its supply chain. It should be applauded for these efforts, although experience tells us that there is no silver bullet to tackling these issues.

‘No company has got it completely right yet. While there is an ongoing debate about the definition of a living wage and how it should be applied, what is clear is that the poorest-paid workers are saying that they are struggling to meet basic needs. For those at the bottom rung of the ladder, even the efforts of the most responsible retailers are not yet good enough.’

However, the ETI intends to strengthen its standards within two years.

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