Corbyn’s sweatshop T-shirts: Poverty-stricken workers paid just 49p an hour

Corbyn’s sweatshop T-shirts: Poverty-stricken workers paid just 49p an hour

* In Nicaragua, Corbyn T-shirt workers are paid £101 a month for shifts

* ‘Team Corbyn’ garments sold out, raising £100,000 for his campaign

* The T-shirts cost supporters £10 with the added postage cost of £3.50

* Corbyn spoke of his determination to combat poverty and inequality in an impassioned victory speech

Gethin Chamberlain, for Mail on Sunday, 12 September 2015, with Ben Ellery, in Nicaragua

Jeremy Corbyn swept to victory backed by cash raised from the sale of T-shirts made by factory workers earning just 49p an hour.

The Socialist firebrand’s fighting fund got a £100,000 boost from the ‘Team Corbyn’ garments, which sold out on his official website.

Moments after taking over the Labour leadership Corbyn spoke of his determination to combat poverty and inequality in an impassioned victory speech.

But an investigation by The Mail on Sunday reveals that scores of workers in Nicaragua and Haiti toiled to produce the T-shirts, which cost supporters £10, plus £3.50 postage.In his speech yesterday Corbyn was eager to set out his stall as a campaigner for the poor and workers’ rights. He declared: ‘We have grown enormously because of the hopes of so many ordinary people for a different Britain. They are fed up with the inequality, the injustice, the unnecessary poverty,’ adding that the party should be a ‘force for change in the world’.

The factories are run by Canadian clothing giant Gildan. In Nicaragua, workers are paid £101 a month for shifts that keep some workers on the factory site for more than 12 hours a day, with breaks.

Based on information from workers and their union officials that most employees work 48 hours a week, that works out at 48.5p an hour.

In Haiti, workers are paid a piece rate depending on how many shirts they make – some earning as little as 39p an hour. One woman told us she earns about £20 for a six-day week.

Our latest investigation has striking similarities with last year’s revelations about the £45 ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ T-shirts sported by Ed Miliband, which were made by women paid just 62p an hour working in a sweatshop in Mauritius.

Nicaragua’s ruling socialist Sandinista party was a cause celebre for British Left-wingers during the 80s. And throughout his career Corbyn, 66, has championed the poor and oppressed of Latin America.

He writes on his website: ‘The heroic Sandinista government in Nicaragua from the 1979 liberation was eventually defeated by the US-backed Contra and economic strangulation. Nicaragua is now the poorest country in the region.’

Gildan has three factories in the country. Our investigator visited one called Annic in Masatepe. Single mother-of-five Margarita Robleto, 37, told us: ‘I get angry. I earn so little money – my whole month’s salary would buy ten Jeremy Corbyn T-shirts. I have to make sacrifices for my children and sometimes I cannot afford food for them or clothes.’

Another worker, jabbing her finger, said: ‘Jeremy Corbyn needs to know about our living conditions. I cannot afford to feed my children but he is supposed to be helping poor people.’

All of the workers we spoke to earned £101.29 a month – just pennies more than the country’s minimum wage of £100.95. An administrator at the factory confirmed the monthly salary.

Emma Maltes, secretary of the factory’s Sindicato 2 de Julio union, said: ‘It is common for members to tell me they don’t have enough money to eat or feed their children.

They are also shouted at by managers if they are not reaching their targets, which are way too high. I understand Corbyn claims to fight for the poor people but what about us?’It was a similarly distressing picture in Port au Prince, Haiti. Workers there told us they are unable to pay their bills and often go days without food to try to make ends meet.

Carla Benoit, 38, has three children and another on the way. Her husband is dead and she lives in a tiny room in a slum with no electricity. She said: ‘I can’t manage to live on this salary.

‘Some days I can’t have a meal at all. It is not easy inside the factory. It is too hot and there is no safe water.’

The T-shirts have a label stitched in saying Gildan Nicaragua or Gildan Haiti and are printed with Corbyn’s slogan.

A Gildan spokeswoman said: ‘Gildan is committed to respecting international labour standards.

‘We pay above the industry minimum wage and provide access to onsite medical clinics operating 24/7 and bonuses for food and transport.’

Last month, this newspaper revealed Corbyn’s wife Laura Alvarez was selling imported £10-a-jar coffee grown by Mexican farmers paid less than the country’s minimum wage.

Mr Corbyn made no response to our request for a comment.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply