On Monday November 14th, 162 workers (including 81 women) from the British clothing manufacturer Dewhirst in Morocco were sacked. As a subcontractor, Dewhirst produces mainly clothes for the Marks and Spencer (M&S) company. M&S and Dewhirst have a close and long running relationship. The workers had been waging action against the bad working conditions in the factory that employs 4000 workers in Tanger in the north of the country. The reaction of the boss was to sack these workers with the aim of terrorising the rest of the workforce.
The sacked workers have now started an around the clock sit-in in front of the company. The CDT (Confédération Démocratique du Travail) union has taken up their case. Working conditions are really scandalous. They earn a poor 1800 Dirham or approximately 180 euros a month. Wage differentials are very big going from 1800 Dirham to 130,000 Dirham. Some workers spend almost half of their wage (700 Dirham) to buy medicines to treat the illnesses contracted in the factory. As they work with chemical products they suffer from asthma, other respiratory disorders and skin problems. Others suffer from depression and heavy stress. Many women workers in the factory complain also of sexual harassment and abuse.
Three years ago Dewhirst moved from Wales to Morocco destroying more than 1000 jobs.
Economic development minister Andrew Davies declared in 2002 “Dewhirst has made a strategic decision to withdraw from manufacturing in Wales in a move to increase profits “
Dewhirst previously had 5 factories in Morocco. It has already closed two of these and plans to close another and move production to Asia where wages are even lower than in North Africa.
Duncan Green, the author of the book Fashion victims wrote that “Dewhirst's profit margins make it the envy of the garment industry”. Those profits are the result of the brutal exploitation of the workforce.
Urgent protest and solidarity is needed with the sacked workers from Dewhirst in Tanger.
What can you do?
- Pickets can be organised in front of Marks and Spencer stores (see www2.marksandspencer.com/thecompany/our_stores/index.shtml for the addresses of M&S in your area). Demand that M&S put pressure on its subcontractor Dewhirst to withdraw the sackings of the 162 workers and respect union rights.
November 17, 2005