Major Australian retailers have caused mass controversy by selling polo shirts for as little as $2.00 each, with customers calling for a boycott of all Target and Kmart stores.
The controversy is fuelled by fears that the dramatically decreased prices are as a result of factory workers potentially being underpaid and the provided with substandard working conditions.
The Daily Mail reports that both Target and Kmart are marketing the cheap items as part of their respective ‘Back to School’ campaigns. The shirts are marked as made in Bangladesh, where it is well documented that wages can be half what is considered to be a ‘living wage’ for the population.
Similarly, The Age newspaper is also reporting that Kmart is selling $5.00 button-up shirts made in Bangladesh.
Customers have hit out at the retailers with outrage online, with some individuals sharing their disgust and calling for a public boycott of the stores involved.
One Twitter user wrote to Target saying:
“Someone else behind a sewing machine is paying for your discount.”
Another person wrote on Kmart Australia’s Facebook page that they are ‘monsters’. “How about NOT using slave labour? Appalling human rights abuses.”
The Kmart and Target Facebook pages were both targeted by one customer who wrote asking how they can possibly manage to “manufacture, ship, distribute and stock’ a polo shirt for just $2.”
A Target Australia spokesperson told The Daily Mail in a recent interview that:
“Target Australia is committed to ensuring transparency and safe working conditions in our factories overseas. We do not put price before factory worker welfare.” The spokesperson said, “We measure factories against our code of conduct and undertake regular announced and unannounced audits.”
Both Target and Kmart have declined to comment on which factories their polo shirts are sourced from in Bangladesh, however they have both stated that there is no cause for concern about the factories involved.
Both retailers were amongst the first to join the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord, which was formed following the 2013 collapse of a factory building in Rana Plaza which killed 1127 workers.
However, the Accord itself focuses on worker safety and does not ensure a company’s compliance with living wage pay rates, within the supply chain.
Speaking with The Daily Mail, Joy Kyriacou, the Finance for Development Manager for Oxfam said, “Very few factory workers in developing countries are paid a living wage. We understand that Target and Kmart pay the legal minimum [wage] in Bangladesh, however this is far below even the most conservative calculation of what a living wage would be.”
In Bangladesh the national minimum wages is just $98 a month – 45 per cent lower than a living wage. The living wage, is the calculated wage that allows an individual to afford basic food, water, shelter, clothing, transport, education and health services.
Target and Kmart are yet to make a public statement regarding the factory which manufactures the items in question.
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