WORLD: Charity Wristbands Made in 'Sweatshop' Factories

Publisher Name: 
The Scotsman

Wristbands made to raise awareness of the Make Poverty History
campaign have been produced in Chinese factories which violated ethical
standards, it emerged today.

The fashionable white wristbands, worn by celebrities and
politicians including Tony Blair, were made for a coalition of
charities as the symbol of their worldwide 2005 campaign to end extreme
poverty.

Oxfam, Christian Aid and Cafod are amongst those charities selling the wristbands, made in rubber and fabric, at £1 each.

Audit reports on two Chinese factories producing the bands have shown standards fell below the Ethical Trading Initiative.

Tat Shing Rubber Manufacturing Company, in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong,
was accused of "forced labour" by taking financial deposits, poor
health and safety provision, long hours, unpaid overtime and no right
to freedom of association, in the April 2005 audit.

An audit report on Fuzhou Xing Chun Trade Company, in Fujian
province, included workers being paid below the local minimum hourly
wage of 2.39 yuan (16p), down to 1.39 yuan (9p) in some cases, overtime
work not being paid properly and with hours beyond the legal limit, no
paid annual leave, no guarantee of a day off per week, and workers
being deducted for disciplinary reasons.

A spokeswoman for Cafod, which bought 120,000 rubber bands from the
Tat Shing factory, said today: "It was concerned that labour standards
weren't as good as we would have expected especially as we were buying
as part of this campaign."

She said: "The point (forced labour) was around people being asked
to leave a deposit against future possible breakages of machinery which
clearly we wouldn't want to see and violates Chinese law and the
Ethical Trade Initiative.

"There were a lot of things which clearly concerned us so we asked them to take corrective action.

"Health and safety, there was an issue around fire exits, insufficient fire exits.

"Originally we were told there was no overtime, which we thought was
unlikely, so we were concerned people were being asked to work overtime
without being paid."

Another Cafod spokeswoman said the company had agreed to engage with
Tat Shing as an incentive for the company to improve its employment
practises.

She said: "We are disappointed this situation has arisen. However we
are now engaging with the supplier to improve conditions within the
factory.

"Under the Ethical Trading Initiative standards when we find out a
supplier isn't in line with those standards we don't just pull away. We
attempt to engage with the supplier and work with that supplier to
improve conditions so they are in line with the Ethical Trading
Initiative standards.

"By engaging with the supplier, the supplier has an incentive to
improve conditions so the end result is better than if we had pulled
away.

"If we pulled away then the supplier has lost a customer and they
will just find another customer who may not care about labour
conditions."

Tat Shing has accepted a timetable to improve specific weakness picked up in the audit, the spokeswoman said.

She added: "We are fully confident all the requirements will be met
but we will have to re-examine our position if they are not met."

Oxfam bought 10,000 silicon wristbands from Tat Shing in November
last year, none of which have been sold, but found another supplier
while waiting to receive the firm's audit.

Oxfam then ordered 1.5 million wristbands from Fuzhou Xing Chun
Trade Company after the failings highlighted in its audit had been
addressed.

A spokesman for Oxfam said: "Like the rest of the Make Poverty
History coalition, Oxfam is concerned about the ethical audits that
have come back on the Chinese factories lined up to supply white bands
and we have agreed formal action plans to address the concerns raised
which have been carried out.

"We can reassure people wanting to support the campaign that all
white bands sold in Oxfam shops meet the standards of our ethical
purchasing practices."

A spokesman for Christian Aid, which has bought more than 500,000
wristbands from Tat Shing, said: "There is no hint of a disagreement
within the agencies on this.

"At Christian Aid we stand four-square beside our partners within the Make Poverty History Campaign."

Sandbag, a Berkshire-based marketing company which deals with the Fuzhou factory, was not available to comment.

AMP Section Name:Manufacturing
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