REPORT: Taking Liberties, the Story Behind the UK High Street

The struggle for a decent life for garment workers in India goes far deeper than the problem of poverty wages, the taking liberties report by Labour Behind the Label and War on Want reveals.'Taking Liberties: the story behind the UK high street' investigates the true life accounts of workers from Gurgaon, India producing for respected highstreet brands M&S, Debenhams and Next.



Workers, the report reveals, suffer long hours in sweltering temperatures, verbal and physical abuse, unsafe water and poor sanitation. Life is lived in slum housing, and affording enough food is a trial. A climate of fear and insecurity is an everyday reality, where workers' choices are limited by the contractors, factory owners, landlords and authorities who control their lives.


Helpers and thread cutters in the factories featured in the report received only £60 (4,349 rupees) a month – below half a living wage of £126 needed to live a decent quality of life. Even skilled tailors and checkers earned at most £65 (4,739 rupees) a month - £2.70 a day or just 33p an hour. Violence and threats to workers who attempted to join unions and demand better conditions was also reported.

The report calls on Debenhams, Marks & Spencer, NEXT, Arcadia group (Miss Selfridge, and Dorothy Perkins) and Monsoon to:

  • Take concrete steps to ensure freedom of association and collective bargaining in Gurgaon

  • Develop clear benchmarks for paying a minimum living wage, based on the Asia Floor Wage figures

  • Address purchasing practices that impact on wages, in particular the costing in of a living wage to prices

  • Eliminate the use of short term contract labour in supply chains

  • Work with others, especially workers and their unions, to translate aspirational codes into reality


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