Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Sunday 11 January 2009

Primark in the dock?

More controversy for high street giant Primark as the Observer reports that illegal workers are being paid £3 an hour for 12 hour shifts 7 days a week. Undercover reporters have been working at a knitwear firm which supplies the store with 20,000 garments every week.

My last post on the subject concerned embroidery and beading work sub-contracted out in India and in this case the supplier is far closer to home, but in each case the question is the same; is it possible to sell cheap clothes and ensure fair pay and conditions for all involved in their production?

There has never been more pressing need to educate the shoppers of today and tomorrow about the minimum ethical standards we should expect of suppliers. With exchange rates signalling the end of cheap imported fashion and unemployment once more stalking the streets of our cities, there is a serious risk that sweatshops will multiply in Britain to fill the gap.
Ultimate responsibility for policing suppliers has to rest with the retailers themselves; Primark and other stores have in the past blamed foreign sub-contractors for breaches of ETI standards, but with these breaches increasingly likely on British soil there will, in future, be nowhere to hide.

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