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Leon’s library campaign on film

August 11th, 2014 by

Last week I went to Cornwall to visit a 38 Degrees member making political waves – at just ten years old. Leon Remphry started a campaign to protect Cornwall’s libraries only a few weeks ago and support is already snowballing. He’s been interviewed by a whole host of journalists. And now councillors, as well as the local MP, are sitting up and taking notice.

Leon began his campaign when he visited Falmouth library one Saturday afternoon only to find it was closed. As his Mum is a 38 Degrees member, he decided to create a petition on Campaigns by You – a part of our website where anyone can start a campaign. And Leon’s proved just how easy it is to create a buzz around an issue you care about.

I met Leon for a morning of action outside Falmouth library. We gathered signatures with hoards of Leon’s school friends. It was exciting to see young faces standing up for the things they care about. It struck me that it would be pretty sad to see these little campaigners have less and less access to a library.

Lib Dem Councillor Adam Paynter, who is responsible for library provision in Cornwall, came along to meet Leon. He explained that library provisions were changing because of budget cuts – that it was out of their hands.

But Leon is just a few hundred signatures away from sparking a council debate. There’s a chance he can persuade Councillors to re-think how they spend their decreasing budget. Either way, Leon’s not giving up – he’s got his sight set on Downing Street if that’s what it takes to win the campaign! Click here to sign his petition.

Have you got any ideas of how Leon could continue his campaign? Do you live in Cornwall? If so, comment below.

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Action against The Sun newspaper

August 8th, 2014 by

38 Degrees member Pam Laurance has just been to the Press Complaints Commission to hand in a petition calling for action against The Sun newspaper.

Pam is calling for the PCC to take action against The Sun for starting a witch hunt against a 4 year old boy who had an unusual mark on his body. The child was pictured and named on the front page of the newspaper alongside the title “Boy, 4, has mark of devil”.

You can sign her petition here.

In an email yesterday, the PCC announced that “in light of the concerns raised by complainants about the article, the Commission has decided to initiate an investigation into the matter”. This is great news!

At the PCC Pam was met by one of the Commissioners who assured her that he was taking the issue “very seriously”.

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Matalan: Only £60,000

August 8th, 2014 by

£60,000. That’s what it looks like clothing giant Matalan have paid in official compensation to the survivors of the Rana Plaza factory collapse.

38 Degrees members joined workers’ rights campaigners last week to ask for £3m. After all, Matalan make annual profits of over £100m, they sourced clothes from Rana Plaza, they never did safety checks on the building, and other brands have paid up.

So the £60,000 figure seems like peanuts. But there’s a case for optimism. First, that’s £60,000 more than the official compensation fund had a week ago. Matalan weren’t planning to pay out at all, and together we changed that. We put Rana Plaza back in the news.

And over 100,000 of us gave Matalan’s bosses and PR team a hard week. We flyered outside 216 stores, flooded their Facebook and Twitter pages, crashed their customer service line and grilled them face-to-face at their HQ. We made headlines all over the country. It was brilliant to be part of.

Every penny for the victims and survivors of this terrible disaster is good news. £60,000 is a victory. But not a complete victory.

So let’s make it clear to Matalan that they’re not walking away smelling of roses. This has tarnished their brand and hurt their reputation with customers and the public. If tens of thousands of us email their bosses and advisers directly now, we can make that abundantly clear.

Emailing them probably won’t make them donate any more – but it’ll cement their discomfort, and make them think twice in future about their responsibilities to their workers. Click here to email Matalan now.

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David Cameron: Stop selling arms to Israel

August 7th, 2014 by

Day after day we see shocking images from Gaza – men, women and innocent children being killed, injured and driven from their homes. The war is over 2,300 miles away. But the Israeli army is using weapons containing British-made parts, sold to the Israeli government with the consent of the UK government.

Pressure is mounting on the UK government to stop sending British weapons into this warzone. Other European countries such as Spain have already announced a ban. Senior MPs from all parties are starting to speak out. Now we need to get David Cameron to do the same.

A big petition now, signed by thousands of us, can help prove that the British public want our government to make a stronger stand for peace. If enough of us sign, it will be handed in to 10 Downing Street next week. You can sign the petition here.

David Cameron is already under pressure to act. On Monday, Baroness Warsi, a senior minister, resigned. She said the government’s policy on Israel was “morally indefensible”. And yesterday, another former cabinet minister, Andrew Mitchell, backed an embargo.

It’s at moments like these when targeted public pressure can push things in the right direction.

We’ve all watched the conflict unfold with a growing sense of frustration and despair. It’s easy to feel powerless. And it’s true that stopping sales of UK arms to Israel won’t, on its own, bring about peace – the crisis in the middle east has deep and difficult roots, and no side is blameless.

But thousands of 38 Degrees members have been in touch over the past few days to say that even if it’s difficult and the chances of success are slim, we should still be doing all we can. And that if you want to promote peace, you don’t sell weapons to either side.

Each week a random sample of 38 Degrees members are polled on what 38 Degrees’ priorities should be. This week, 85% said an arms embargo to promote peace in the Middle East should be a priority.

The UK has, rightly, already got controls in place to stop British-made weapons going to Hamas – it’s time to ban arms sales to Israel too.

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Save our GP surgeries

August 7th, 2014 by

Yesterday 38 Degrees members, GPs, MPs and NHS campaigners went to 10 Downing St to hand in a petition to save GP Surgeries.

Sarah Williams, a GP from Hackney in London has started a petition on Campaigns by You calling for the government to reverse their decision to cut vital funding to inner city and rural GP surgeries. Very good local practices may be forced to close – leaving hundreds or thousands of patients without a GP.

You can sign her petition here

Sarah said

“A big thank you to all of you who signed the petition (25000 including those who signed the paper copies) and to the many of you who supported the campaign today by coming to hand the petition in at Downing Street.  It was a big success.  The event was covered widely by local media and those of you in London may have seen the piece on BBCLondon news this evening, the campaign is also featuring on London Live tomorrow morning.  This will have given the campaign a big boost.

There has also been exciting news recently as lawyers Leigh Day are planning to judicially review the government’s decision to remove this funding from GP practices. There should be more news on this in the next 2 weeks.  As many of you will know it was Leigh Day who won a judicial review against Jeremy Hunt’s decision to close Lewisham Hospital!

Thanks again for your support”

Check out more pictures from the day here:

 

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Your decision: 4th August

August 4th, 2014 by

Every week a group of 38 Degrees members vote on which issues our movement should prioritise and which campaigns to get behind. Here are the results for last week.

Protecting the NHS by stopping the government’s dangerous plans like privatisation and closing A&E departments has come top this week.

The next biggest issues were: cracking down on tax dodging by big companies, campaigning against cuts to GP funding that could lead to the closure of inner city and remote rural practices, as well as campaigning to protect public land (like forests, parks and footpaths) being sold off.

You can see how 38 Degrees members voted on other issues on the graph below. The blue on the graph shows how many people answered ‘a lot’ in support of the campaigns listed, the red represents people answering ‘a little’, and the green is ‘not at all’.

 

Weekly poll 4th August

What do you think? Please comment below. For a full-size chart please click here.

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Matalan: Day of action

August 4th, 2014 by

On Wednesday, thanks to people-power, Matalan shifted its position and decided to pay into the official compensation fund for victims of the Rana Plaza factory disaster. But they refused to reveal how much. So on Saturday hundreds of 38 Degrees members came together outside Matalan stores across the country to ask #howmuch!

Together we managed to cover most of Matalan’s 220 stores around the UK. Many customers shared our concerns and took them up with staff inside. Matalan HQ were clearly feeling the heat from both their customers and their staff.

Wendy attended a peaceful protest at Matalan Southport:

“A very polite store manager directed by head office asked us to move from store entrance which we did. Matalan proudly display poster saying garments are quality checked 15 times before reaches customer. Pity can’t claim the same for the factories they use!”

Joe, a member from Southampton, sent these pictures:

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Sally at Malvern:

“Good interactions with lots of public, leaflets handed out, good discussions had and letters given to management who really did not want to take them! Management very aware of us and police visited! Let’s hope it gets some useful results but good to do anyway as awareness raising exercise.” Matalan Chester.jpg

Frances went to her local Matalan shop in Southall:

“A small group of us, including my 2 teenage daughters at their first local demo, made a stand, shouted out and handed out info outside our local Southall Matalan this morning. We gave the store manager three signed letters and many leaflets to customers as they entered and exited. Their security guard politely asked us to leave and we politely refused. Many customers stood and listened to our information and several asked how they could get more info. So it was well worth doing and we hope that it has some effect in gaining as much ongoing compensation and possible.”

Jane in Edinburgh said:

“We had a few fliers with us and had interesting and friendly conversations with most customers we approached – some already new about the campaign, others hoped to go online to sign up and encourage Matalan to be more open with their commitment.

The management asked us to leave the premises at the same time as the local constabulary turned up. The policeman helpfully advised us that if asked to leave the inside of the building we had to, however outside the curtilage of the building we were in a public place and at liberty to continue.”

Meanwhile at the other end of the country, 38 Degrees members joined each other outside of Matalan’s shop in Brighton:

Mary at Trafford Manchester had this experience:

“I had phoned the store on Wednesday as I’m disabled and couldn’t manage Skelmersdale. I said I was a regular customer (true) but that I couldn’t shop there again until they handed over the cash to Bangladesh.  I then took a top back for a refund as I’d bought it a couple of weeks ago but hadn’t worn it and still had the receipt.  I had a chat with the girl on the till – when she asked why I was returning it I told her and she said they had been told that the store had made adequate recompense to Bangladesh, so clearly the management care about what the staff think on the issue.

Rab at Galashiels told the office team:

“We spoke to the store manager who was informed that we were there as concerned customers and were extremely disappointed at the attitude of Matalan. Our protest was to draw attention to the plight of those injured and killed. We also informed the manager that protests were ongoing throughout the country on Saturday and she appeared unaware of this. We informed the manager that this was just the beginning and we were doing this in a low key to give their board the chance to remedy their stance but if they did not, there would be a significant protest outside their shop.”

Matalan store managers seem to have been instructed by Matalan HQ to try to get rid of us as quickly as possible. They had been given copies of the rather misleading and evasive statement which first appeared on their web site three days ago. Experts at the charity Labour Behind the Label responded to the statement line by line on our web site here:

http://blog.38degrees.org.uk/2014/07/31/matalans-statement-and-expert-rebuttal/

What a fantastic day for 38 Degrees members. It was a truly inspiring to be part of something which happened all over the country like this. Thanks for being part of all this.

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Matalan: Events this Saturday

August 1st, 2014 by

Matalan are starting to shift. But we still have some way to go before survivors of the Rana Plaza factory disaster get the compensation they deserve. So this Saturday, 38 Degrees members across the country are going to take the message where Matalan can’t possibly ignore it.

Up and down the country, 38 Degrees members are visiting Matalan stores at 11am Saturday morning. They’ll gather outside to hand out leaflets. Then they’ll pay the store manager a visit and hand them a letter asking Matalan to pay fair compensation for the victims of the factory collapse.

Our emails, phone calls, Twitter and Facebook messages have already shaken Matalan bosses. So imagine the impact when all the local store managers start phoning HQ to report that it’s on their doorsteps now. Matalan will realise that failure to pay fair compensation risks ruining their reputation with their customers.

Can you join in? It’ll take half an hour or so, at the Matalan store nearest you – please click here for details and to RSVP.

On Wednesday night, 38 Degrees members took our demands to the company’s HQ near Wigan. The public pressure had clearly got to Matalan bosses – after months of refusing, they finally promised to pay into the official disaster compensation fund.

This is progress, and proves our campaign is starting to work. Every single penny for the victims and survivors of this terrible disaster is good news.

But there’s a BIG catch. Matalan are refusing to say how much they’ve now contributed. Why are they hushing this up? Are they trying to get away with paying as little as possible? Other companies have made their contributions public – Primark has paid in £9 million, for example. There’s a risk that Matalan are offering only a token amount.

We need to push them to publish how much they’ve put into the fund to prove it’s a proper contribution, not just a token amount.

Store visits this weekend will up the pressure on Matalan bosses at just the right time. If we keep the pressure on, together we can make sure the victims of the factory disaster get fair compensation from Matalan, not tokenism.

There’s information on the web page about what you could do while you’re there, how to talk to staff at the Matalan stores, and a link to download flyers to hand out to customers.

Thank you for everything you’ve done so far – we are definitely starting to win, so let’s keep it up!

When the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsed, 1130 workers died and many more were severely injured. Compensation won’t bring any of these people back, but it will help the survivors rebuild their lives. Public pressure has helped make sure retailers like Primark make a proper, public contribution to the scheme. Let’s keep up the pressure until Matalan does the same.

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Matalan: Guide for event at your local store

July 31st, 2014 by

It’s simple to go along to your local Matalan store this Saturday, and this guide will give you all the information and print-outs you should need.

There won’t be a member of the 38 Degrees staff team at your local event, but there will be other 38 Degrees members. You can check on the events page you signed up to for how many people are expected.

Together, hundreds of 38 Degrees members putting pressure on Matalan across the country can push Matalan to say how much they’re going to pay to victims of the Rana Plaza disaster.

Top tips for joining other 38 Degrees members at your nearest Matalan store

What to take with you

  • Leaflets to hand out (download here)
  • Your letter to the store manager (download here)
  • Any posters or placards you’d like to make and take (some ideas here)
  • The contact details of any local press you’ve invited along

Click the links below for copies of the leaflet, letter to store managers, and poster ideas:

LEAFLETS

LETTER TO STORE MANAGER

posters

On the day: handing out your leaflets

Try to find a prominent place in front of or near the Matalan store where you’re leafleting. Gather together with other 38 Degrees members who have come along.

Depending on where the Matalan store is located you should be able to leaflet in front of it. You are well within your rights to do this: if staff or security ask you to leave just remember you have every right to be there! There’s no need to leave, but do remember to be polite.

If the store is inside a shopping centre then remember that you are on private property. If you’re not able to leaflet in front of the store itself you can always stand in front of the shopping centre.

If you want to hand out leaflets inside the store you may be asked to leave by staff or security. It’s probably best to leave if asked to do so. Make sure you hand in your letter to the store manager first though!

Speaking to Matalan customers and staff

The main point to remember is to be polite when speaking to customers and staff. Take the time to explain the campaign to them and you’ll probably find that they agree with you.

Before hand: Promoting your event

Now that you’ve signed up to go along to the local event, you could help make it a big event by sharing it with your friends, family and colleagues!

If you’re on Twitter and Facebook, you can use the share buttons on the events page to post it on your wall and to tweet about the event. And once you’ve shared it, why not ask friends and family to do the same?

If you don’t use social media why not email friends and family instead? Are there any local groups who might be interested who you could get in touch with?

Local media

It’s worth getting in touch with your local paper or radio stations about the event in case they want to come down on the day. Make sure they know when and where it’s happening, and who to contact for more information.

 

Key facts about the campaign

Matalan: tell us how much you have paid into the official Rana Plaza Compensation Trust Fund for victims of the Rana Plaza disaster.

The call is backed by:

  • Over 103,000 signatories on the 38 Degrees petition
  • 10,157 members of the public on Twitter
  • 13,607 members of the public on Facebook
  • UNI Global Union
  • Labour Behind the Label
  • And Government ministers from seven European countries including the UK, France, Germany and Italy

RanaPlaza
When the Rana Plaza Factory Complex collapsed in April 2013, at least 1,129 workers died and over 2,515 were injured. Matalan were among the companies to source clothing from New Wave – a factory based inside the Rana Plaza building.

It’s good news for people power that Matalan has agreed to pay into the official compensation fund – after thousands of people pushed them to pay up this week. But tens of thousands of people are still waiting to hear whether Matalan has paid a fair amount – or whether this is just a throwaway payment designed to shut down the debate.

Let’s not forget the issue at the heart of this: the responsibility Matalan has to the thousands of people killed or devastatingly injured in the same factory that made its clothes.

Matalan need to say how much they have paid into the official compensation fund.

Talking points
• Have you ever shopped at Matalan? If you have make sure to say so to the store manager.
• What does this make you think about Matalan as a business that says it’s family-friendly?
• Matalan’s competitor Primark has said how much it has donated to the official fund – £9 million. Why won’t Matalan say too?

Who else has paid?
All other culpable major UK retailers have paid, including H&M, Primark, Debenhams and Asda.

You can print out this information to take with you on the day by clicking here.

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Matalan’s statement and expert rebuttal from Labour Behind the Label

July 31st, 2014 by

Read below for a rebuttal of Matalan’s response to our campaign for them to pay into the official compensation fund for victims of the Rana Plaza disaster, by Labour Behind the Label who support garment workers worldwide.

When Matalan said …

We continue to be deeply shocked by the tragedy at Rana Plaza and its effects on the families of those killed or injured. From the beginning, we, at Matalan, realised that urgent and continued support was needed to get help to the families as soon as possible. Matalan attended meetings and took part in conference calls with two organisations that are committed to obtaining such support – ILO and BRAC. We have always sought to establish the best way of getting funds to the families.

Labour Behind the Label say …

Matalan were involved in meetings to set up the process for compensation at the beginning of the process. That is why Labour Behind the Label and other organisations were shocked when Matalan chose to walk away from the process.

When Matalan said …

Many months ago we contributed to BRAC so that the people that need the help received it as soon as possible.

Geoffrey Salkeld, Trustee and Acting CEO, BRAC UK, said: “Matalan’s support has enabled BRAC to deliver the help that is urgently needed to the survivors of the Rana Plaza tragedy. BRAC’s 40 years experience of emergency response and poverty alleviation in Bangladesh meant that it was uniquely placed to deliver immediate relief to the survivors of the Rana Plaza tragedy in April 2013″.

Labour Behind the Label say …

Labour Behind the Label has no quarrel with organisations like BRAC delivering emergency relief, and they were well placed to do this work. But this is a separate issue. We are calling for funding to provide long term compensation, which will provide devastated families with an ongoing income for life. Not through loans, or support for retraining, although these are helpful services, but through income payments that they are free to use in whichever way they deem best for their families.

In recognition that setting up a formal system for compensation would not be an overnight job other brands including Primark, Loblaw and Bon Marche also contributed for short term/emergency relief, as did many other organisations. This however does not excuse brands from also paying into the fund for long term compensation. Brands like Primark have contributed into the long term compensation fund as well.

When Matalan said …

We should emphasise that our relationship with the New Wave Organisation (the factory in Rana Plaza) never went beyond an initial test period. This period was between February and March 2013 and ended before the tragedy occurred.  The reason for not pursuing future orders was commercial and the supplier was formally notified that their quality standards did not match Matalan’s requirements.

Labour Behind the Label say …

The garment industry is run on short term orders. The existence of long term, continuous production is rare and in fact it is this constant switching from one supplier to another that has helped to undermine efforts to improve conditions in the industry. Few of the brands associated with RP had long term orders with the factory. Regardless of the size or length of order and relationship basic due diligence requires brands using these facilities to do the basic check required to ensure at least that the factory is safe.

Matalan, along with every other brand failed to carry out these checks. Had they done so, and informed the authorities of their concerns then they could have prevented this disaster. The fact they failed to do this is at the heart of why they must now take responsibility.

When Matalan said …

The ILO’s donation fund has received numerous donations from the Industry and other organisations. Matalan has made donations to ILO and BRAC.

Labour Behind the Label say …

We are unaware of any donation made by Matalan to the ILO, although we understand they now claim to have contributed in the past 24 hours. The way the Fund is set up allows for anonymous donations – but for the public to confirm the truth of this statement Matalan must request from the Arrangement that their donation be publicly declared. Until they do this we cannot in anyway reassure their customers that Matalan have donated. If such a donation exists they must request that it is made public so their consumers can have confidence in their statement.

When Matalan said …

We would like to make it clear that we have never been ordered by any organisation to pay compensation or been found culpable for the tragedy. However, our company is happy to continue to make substantial contributions to help the people who need it most. The ILO has confirmed that it has made no orders for payments nor made deadlines for such payments from any organisation in the Industry.

Labour Behind the Label say …

It is not a question of being “ordered” to do so. The Fund is set up as a voluntary fund – this was set up in such a way as to remove any barriers to donations that having a requirement would create. However the Coordination Committee of the Arrangement, representing government, workers, and industry has requested a donation from matalan. The UK government has also called on them to do so and now, so have tens of thousands of their customers.  Whether Matalan (or any other brand) could be held legally responsible is as yet untested.

The priority of all involved was to get payments as quickly as possible to victims, and it is believed that the legal process could take years to complete. Given the shock professed by all the clients of Rana Plaza in the aftermath, we genuinely believed that those brands linked to the tragedy would match these words with action and be more than willing to contribute their share to the Fund. Over six months later the fact that this has not happened in a number of cases in an ongoing source of frustration and disappointment from all involved.

When Matalan said …

The ILO has said: “ILO encourages brands and other donors to given generously to the Rana Plaza Donor’s Trust Fund as we see the needs of the victims as an important issue for the industry to settle. However, It is not ILOs role to campaign or to make any specific demands of any donor and ILO has not done this”.

Labour Behind the Label say …

The ILO is not a campaigning organisation and its role in the process is as a neutral facilitator. It would be therefore inappropriate for them to comment or make demands on particular companies. It is clear from a number of statements issued by the organisation and from its central role in developing the process that it does however consider the Arrangement the best way to deliver long term compensation in line with ILO convention 121.

When Matalan said …

Matalan take their ethical responsibility seriously and like all other retailers, it is evident that audits require the input of structural engineers. This is one of the reasons that Matalan has also joined the Bangladesh Accord whose key principle is that no one should go to their place of work in fear of injury.

Labour Behind the Label say …

We reiterate that this is misleading – the Accord’s role is prevent future disasters like Rana Rlaza, not to deal with the aftermath of the disaster itself. That said the Accord has called on all its members to contribute to the Fund, this call includes Matalan as an Accord member.

When Matalan said …

We are extremely proud of our connections with the people of Bangladesh, and our work with the garment industry in the country as a whole, and as such wanted to offer our support.

As well as our donation to ILO we hope to provide further support to BRAC. The function of this scheme is to enhance the long term financial security of families who are currently vulnerable in terms of their financial status by providing, for example, Medical Insurance Cover to prevent families from going into further debt and to ensure that medical services will be taken care of for the next five years. This is crucially important. There is a Monthly Reserve Fund that provides a monthly income for the living needs of families which will be carried out in coordination with BRAC Bank or BKash. There is also the Livelihood Assistance, which arranges integrated options so that families can ensure a sustainable future.

Labour Behind the Label say …

In order to be in line with international standards monthly payments must be available to every single person affected by the disaster and must be calculated using a specific formula. The reason that payments are being given out only now is because each claimant has been supported to make claims that will ensure they get the full compensation they are entitled under international standards. These payments are based on what was lost by that family in the disaster. Again, whilst BRAC does good work, it neither provides income based on international standards nor does it provide such payments to every single dependant and worker affected by the disaster.

When Matalan said …

From Matalan’s experience in Bangladesh, we believe that BRAC have a superb team of people who can help victims and communities, it is pleasing to see that the ILO have the same goal.

Labour Behind the Label say …

BRAC, as a privately funded NGO, which is increasingly gaining much of its funding from the private sector, is not accountable to the people using its service who have no input or influence over the process. The ILO is an entirely different body, that brings together all those on the ground that have a genuine stake in the garment industry and includes legitimate representatives of workers, the industry and the government of Bangladesh. Its role and objective is develop a long term, nationally based system for compensation, and the Rana Plaza Arrangement has been designed in such a way as to provide a model for such a system to be developed. Again, the ILO is about the promotion of workers’ rights in the industry, which includes the right to compensation. Should the respect of workers’ rights become the norm in Bangladesh workers would no longer have to rely on charity to make ends meet.

When Matalan said …

If members of your organisation would like to speak with us directly we would welcome the opportunity to arrange for those conversations to take place. It is very important that everybody works together and that sustainable funding from responsible sources is maintained, whilst ensuring that there is continued awareness in the Retail Industry of the long term effects of such a tragedy.

Labour Behind the Label say …

Sustainable funding is important, but much more important is the willingness of brands and retailers to accept the responsibility they have to those workers making their clothes. This includes respect for those workers organisations which represent the interests of garment workers, all of which are supportive of and directly involved in the Rana Plaza Arrangement. This is why we are requested that Matalan take that responsibility now and pay into the Fund.

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