Forced labour scheme found in highstreet retailers supply chains

Forced labour found in highstreet retailers' supply chains

New Report from Clean Clothes Campaign finds bonded labour remains entrenched in highstreet fashion retailers’ supply chains.

The latest report released by Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland and their partners have found a bonded labour schemes targeting poverty stricken young girls as young as 15 in South India are supplying well known highstreet retailers including Primark, Motercare, C&A and Sainsbury’s among others.  

Flawed Fabrics an new report from Clean Clothes Campaign partners; the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) highlights serious labour rights and human rights violations faced by girls and young women in the South Indian textile hub of Tamil Nadu.

The report interviewed over 150 women and girls working in 5 of the estimated 1600 the spinning mills of Tamil Nadu, and found the practice of Sumangali schemes remains entrenched in the region. The Sumangali scheme is an employment arrangement targeting young girls recruited from marginalised Dalit communities in impoverished rural areas. Brought to the mills and factories on the promise of good wages, accommodation, three meals a day and the promise of a lump sum ‘dowry’ payment at the end of an agreed term, this report show that the vulnerable young girls find themselves in a very different situation.

Living in basic and over-crowded company-run hostels the girls interviewed faced restrictions of movement, rationed external communication and in many cases armed guards at the gates of compounds. Forced to work at least 60 hours a week in hostile and unhealthy conditions where night shifts and overtime are obligatory and pay is deducted in the case of illness.

A worker at Sulochana Cotton Spinning Mills said of her living conditions: “I do not like the hostel; there is no entertainment and no outside contact and is very far from the town. It is like a semi-prison.”  

Despite these significant breaches of worker and human rights, two of the researched mills received international certification (SA8000) from Social Accountability International (SAI) for adhering to international labour standards.

Kate Nolan of Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland states “On news of continued rising profits for low cost retailers like Penneys, we have to start to consider where these margins are realized. Buying practices including pricing need to allow for decent working conditions so that girls and young women in Tamil Nadu no longer have to face appalling working conditions that are tantamount to forced labour.“

Rosie O’Reilly of Re-dress, Ireland’s Sustainable Fashion Initiative comments

“The hallmark of a sustainable enterprise is not soaring profits but companies that show the means to encourage innovation and long-term planning around resource use and social responsibility. Companies should be creating more wealth than they destroy and should be building net wealth – social, ecological and economic. In the case of fast fashion brand Penneys and others named in this report this is not the case. There recent tie to Sumangali schemes in India illustrates this clearly as do the many reports released this year that link fashion brands to increasing environmental and humanitarian destruction. “

SOMO researcher and co-author of the report Martje Theuws says: “Business efforts are failing to address labour rights violations effectively. Corporate auditing is not geared towards detecting forced labour and other major labour rights infringements. Moreover, there is a near complete lack of supply chain transparency. Local trade unions and labour groups are consistently ignored.”

In addition, ICN programme officer Marijn Peepercamp states: “Governments at the buying end of the supply chain are failing to ensure that companies live up to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The state duty to protect and the corporate responsibility to respect human rights as laid down in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are not being respected.”

This is not the first time SOMO and ICN have reported the issue of forced labour in South India, the Captured by Cotton Report 2011  also raised the issue and produced many strong intentions to tackle the issue from multi stakeholders initiatives and retailers but to date we have seen little proof that their intentions are finding any path to changing the reality for these young girls.


Read the full reports here 

Flawed Fabrics Report 2014

Captured by Cotton Report 2011



Response to ‘cry for help’ notes found in Penneys garments.

Clean Clothes Campaign responds to recent stories of ‘calls for help’ found in Penneys clothing.

Over the past week there have been reports of notes for help or messages stitched into clothing sold by Irish retailer Penneys purportedly from workers suffering inhumane conditions in the production of clothes for the retail giant.

Clean Clothes Campaign, in response to the stories says, “It is difficult to know whether these notes are genuine. However speculation on the origin of the messages should not distract from the known reality which is that the conditions described – in particular long hours, poverty pay and unsafe working conditions – are a fact of life for the majority of women and men producing clothes for high street brands including Primark.

“As our recent reports, Tailored Wages 2014 and Stitched Up – Eastern Europe Report clearly demonstrate inhumane conditions and wages that full far short of a living wage are endemic in the industry and can be found from clothing factories in Bangladesh to Bulgaria, Cambodia to Croatia.

“Penneys are not alone in sourcing from these factories and it is important that Penneys and all clothing brands take action and put an end to exploitative and inhumane purchasing practices and ensure the people who make their clothes are paid a living wage in decent working conditions.

“To pay a decent living wage would cost a brand like Primark just 50 cents more paid directly to a worker. As these stories have shown, cheap fashion at the expense of another persons dignity does not lie comfortably in the mind of consumers.”

Primark Ireland Ltd relationship confirmed with factory as death toll rises in Bangladesh building collapse

Disregard for the lives of workers leads to a rising death tole in Bangladesh factory collapse

Labels Primark and Mango found after factory collapse Bangladesh



Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) Ireland on behalf of the international alliance of CCC’s along with trade unions and labour rights organisations in Bangladesh and around the world is calling for immediate action from international brands following today’s collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, in Dhaka Bangladesh. The collapse of the eight story building, covering three factories and a mall, cost the lives of at least 82 people and injured over 800.

Activists today managed to enter the ruins of ‘Rana Plaza’ and found labels linking major European retailers to this latest tragedy:  Spanish high street brand Mango and Primark, sister retailer of Irish low cost store Pennies. Rana Plaza also produced for a host of well known European and US brand names including C&A, KIK and Wal-Mart. These brands were also involved in the fire at the Tazreen factory, not far from Savar, where 112 workers died in a fire exactly five months ago. German costcutter KIK was also involved in the Ali Enterprises fire in Pakistan, where nearly 300 workers burned to death last September.

The killed and injured workers were producing garments for when their factory – with allegedly illegally built floors – suddenly gave way with a loud sound, leaving only the ground floor intact.  This latest collapse provides yet further evidence that voluntary company led monitoring has failed to protect workers’ lives. Labour rights groups say unnecessary deaths will continue unless and until brands and government officials agree to an independent and binding fire and building safety program.

“It’s unbelievable that brands still refuse to sign a binding agreement with unions and labour groups to stop these unsafe working conditions from existing. Tragedy after tragedy shows that corporate-controlled monitoring is completely inadequate,”  says Kate Nolan from Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland

She adds: “Right now the families of the victims are grieving and the community is in shock. But  they, and the hundreds injured in the collapse, are without income and without support. Immediate relief and longterm compensation must be provided by the brands who were sourcing from these factories, and responsibility taken for their lack of action to prevent this happening.”

To stop these collapses from happening, the Clean Clothes Campaign calls upon brands sourcing from Bangladesh to sign on to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement immediately. The CCC, together with local and global unions and labour rights organisations has developed a sector-wide program for action that includes independent building inspections, worker rights training, public disclosure and a long-overdue review of safety standards. It is transparent as well as practical, and unique in being supported by all key labour stakeholders in Bangladesh and internationally.

The agreement was already signed last year by the US company PVH Corp (owner of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger) and the German retailer Tchibo. The labour signatories are now calling on all major brands sourcing in the industry to sign on to the initiative in order to ensure its rapid implementation. The programme has the potential to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers currently at risk in unsafe and illegally built factories.

CCC has been campaigning on safety issues in Bangladesh since the collapse of the Spectrum factory in 2005, which left 64 people dead and involved high street brand Zara.

CCCI will participate in ethical fashion initiative Re-dress’ “Better fashion conversations” tomorrow night in the Loft, South Studios, Dublin 8 where the issue of bonded labour and safety in Pakistan’s garment industry will be discussed. For more information log on to





18.59pm 24th April

Primark release statement after being identified as purchasing from New Wave – a factory based on the 7th floor of  the Rana Plaza.