corporate responsibility human rights shopping social justice

Primark: big profits and hollow promises

December 2006: investigators find sweatshops in Bangladesh where workers are making Primark clothes for 5p an hour.
Primark said: “As members of the Ethical Trading Initiative we are fully committed to the campaign to improve working standards in Bangladesh.”

June 2008: Panorama finds 9 year olds working on Primark clothes in India for 60p a day.
Primark said: ‘We are appalled, we feel let down and we are taking all the action we can to prevent this happening again.”

December 2008: War on Want reports on 80 hours weeks and 7p an hour wages in Bangladesh.
Primark said: “Primark specifically is an ethical organisation, is committed to ethical sourcing, and seeks to improve living standards in these countries.”

January 2009: BBC undercover journalist manages to get a job making Primark knitwear in Manchester, where illegal immigrants work 12 hour days for £3.50 an hour.
Primark said: “Primark is never complacent, and will continue to do all it can to ensure that its audit process is robust and that shoppers can continue to have faith in Primark’s ethics and its values.”

December 2009: Today War on Want announced that its researchers have been back to factories in Bangladesh and spoke to workers doing 84 hour weeks, despite Primark’s new code of conduct specifying that workers shouldn’t do more than 48 hours a week. “None of Primark’s claims – so-called ethical staff, training and audits – have made any difference to the workers’ poverty” says one Dhaka based researcher.
Primark says: “We work tirelessly with our suppliers and other stakeholders, including those in Bangladesh, to raise standards and to ensure the welfare of the workers that depend on the orders placed at these factories.”

Today Primark celebrates record profits with its shareholders, an 8% rise in sales. Earlier this year they were named BCSC ‘retailer of the year’ for the second year in a row, one of a series of awards given to the company. Last month shoppers queued from 6 am for a shop opening in Wood Green. They are very successful at what they do.

It should be clear by now that Primark’s entire business model depends on the exploitation of cheap labour in poorer countries.

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