A website aimed at “inspiring women” has stopped selling its “Girl Power” slogan t-shirts after a report in the Guardian revealed that the Bangladesh-based factory where the shirts are made fired 100 workers who protested their low wages.
F= had been selling the apparel for £28 (around $37), £10 of which was donated to the charity Worldreader, which provides e-books to people in developing countries. The slogans were printed in the U.K. but the t-shirts themselves were made by the Belgian brand Stanley/Stella, at a facility in Bangladesh owned by the company Dird Composite Textiles.
Factory workers, some of whom make only around 56 cents an hour, say that they were fired en masse for protesting their wages, according to the Guardian. They are reportedly among a wider movement of 7,500 people at 27 factories in Bangladesh who have lost their jobs amid protests and strikes over low pay for garment workers. Minimum wage for the sector has been raised to 8,000 taka (around US$95), which is half of what the protestors had been demanding.
The Guardian also reports that a female employee of the factory used by Stanley/Stella, who sat on an anti-harassment committee, was beaten on order of the management and threatened with murder.
Responding to the Guardian’s allegations, Dird said that the workers were not fired, but resigned of their own accord.
In a statement posted to its website, F= said that it had researched partner brands and found Stanley/Stella “to be one of the best manufacturers both in terms of sustainability and working conditions they urge their suppliers to uphold.” The statement also added that F= had been assured that the shirts were made in a factory certified by the Fair Wear Foundation, a non-profit that works to improve conditions for garment workers. Stanley/Stella is, according to the statement, an “active member” of the FWF.
A spokesperson for the foundation told the Guardian that it was aware of the claim that 100 workers had been fired for protesting, and that there were “some discrepancies between what we heard from the factory management and the complainants’ stories and their personal files.”
“The factory is in the process of paying legal entitlements, such as due salaries, provident fund and severance pay to all the workers concerned,” the spokesperson added. “FWF and Stanley/Stella will keep a close eye on this.”
In a statement, the foundation also said, “We understand that that is difficult to grasp for consumers who just read about violations in this factory but the garment industry is complex, global, fragmented and rarely transparent. Stanley/Stella is one of those brands that want to break the vicious cycle and improve how our clothes are made. And we think they should be supported for that.”
F= says it has closed its “entire shop” while the case is under investigation.
“[O]ur entire mission is based on empowerment,” the company elaborates, “and if we receive evidence of poor treatment, we would look for another supplier immediately.”
Read the full report at the Guardian.