Sunday, April 22, 2007

England's accidental child slaves...

The Observer article, The human cost of cheap high street clothes, reports that their investigation has uncovered two high street retailers that are selling clothing which was made by Indian child slave laborers as young as nine. This is one of the low points of the profit motive. To me, the most frightening aspect of the story is the similarity of each company's defense.

Select, the first company in the article mentions, said

'The whole idea of child trafficking is utterly unacceptable and the thought that we could be involved has very much upset us all,' said John Sunderland, a director. 'We had visited the factory and we were totally confident that everything was absolutely straight.'

It appears Majgenta, the Indian company contracted to make the Select dresses had sub-contracted sewing some sequins on the almost-finished garments to another firm.

The second company, Roman Originals, said,

'We were horrified to see these pictures and immediately launched an investigation into our suppliers,' Roman Originals said in a statement, adding it had cancelled its contract immediately.

'We had visited the suppliers and were presented with an adult-only workforce and practices that satisfied our standards. It appears that our supplier sub-contracted a portion of the business and this is where the problem occurred."

In other words, 'We are feeling just as bad about this as those poor slaves. We went down personally, one time, to make sure everything was above board, but they may have farmed some of the work out to the worst sort or people. How were we to know? Should we have wondered how they could possibly give us such low prices?'

The low prices were the ones demanded by the buyers, with the understanding, tacit or not, that there is always a country further down the economic ladder that will take the job. Wasn't England just patting itself on the back a month ago for having ended slavery two hundred years ago, didn't they issue a stamp or something?

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