02/01/2010 - High Street profits boosted by Child Slave Labour

altMANY SHOPS bring in around 25% of their weekly take on a Saturday.  So with the recent Boxing Day sales falling on a Saturday, many retailers were looking forward to a really profitable day.

However, it’s important to take a look at the root of some of these profits – slave labour. 

And we’re not just talking about the minimum wages and terrible working conditions endured by many workers in some of
Britain’s High Street giants.  Much of the produce sold has been manufactured by child slave labour.

With this in mind the
Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and Anti-Slavery International (ASI) have accused H&M and Zara of using cotton suppliers in Bangladesh which obtain many of their raw materials from Uzbekistan, where children as young as 10 are forced to work in the fields.

They are calling on retailers to ban Uzbek cotton and implement "track and trace" systems to make sure the source of the material can be vouched for.

Uzbekistan – one of the former SovietRepublics - is at the forefront of global cotton production.  However, the EJF claim that “forced child labour, human rights violations, excessive pesticide use, the draining of an ocean and severe poverty are all rife in cotton production in Uzbekistan.”

ASI have noted that every year, “the Uzbekistan government closes down the schools for up to three months and  forces up to 200,000 children, some as young as ten years old, to pick the cotton harvest.

Children in
Uzbekistan are rarely paid for their work and the ‘lucky’ ones receive only 3-4 US cents per kilo for a product that is worth US $1.15 on the global market. The children can pick up to 50 kg of cotton a day and the work is dangerous, with five reported deaths in 2008, due to a lack of safety precautions.”

Solidarity Trade Union calls upon all its members and supporters to boycott items produced by child slave labour from H&M and Zara.