Simon Murphy – The Guardian Jan 20, 2019
Spice Girls T-shirts sold to raise money for Comic Relief’s “gender justice” campaign were made at a factory in Bangladesh where women earn the equivalent of 35p an hour during shifts in which they claim to be verbally abused and harassed, a Guardian investigation has found.
The charity tops, bearing the message “#IWannaBeASpiceGirl”, were produced by mostly female machinists who said they were forced to work up to 16 hours a day and called “daughters of prostitutes” by managers for not hitting targets.
Money raised from sales of the £19.40 T-shirts will be donated to Comic Relief’s fund to help “champion equality for women”. The charity is due to receive £11.60 for each of the T-shirts, which were commissioned and designed by the band, but said it has yet to be given any money.
Announcing the partnership, the Spice Girls said the cause was important to them because “equality and the movement of people power have always been at the heart of the band”.
But one of the machinists at the factory that produced the garments – modelled on social media by the TV presenter Holly Willoughby, the singers Sam Smith and Jessie J, and the Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill – said: “We don’t get paid enough and we work in inhuman conditions.”
The T-shirts, which also have the words “gender justice” on the back, were made by workers earning significantly less than a living wage. The factory is part-owned by a minister in Bangladesh’s authoritarian coalition government, which won 96% of the vote last month in an election described as “farcical” by critics. There is no suggestion any of the celebrities were aware of conditions at the factory.
A spokesman for the Spice Girls said they were “deeply shocked and appalled” and would personally fund an investigation into the factory’s working conditions. Comic Relief said the charity was “shocked and concerned”.