Primark denies forced labour allegations as more 'cry for help' labels emerge

Items bought in Swansea and Belfast have been found with notes

Primark has denied allegations of forced labour at its factories and claimed it “knows its responsibility” to workers as more “cry for help” labels emerge.

A £10 dress bought in a branch of the low-cost fashion chain in Swansea contained a label sewn with the message “forced to work exhausting hours” and a cheap top from the same store read: “Degrading sweatshop conditions”.

Another woman who purchased a pair of trousers from Primark in Belfast in 2011 claimed to have recently found a handwritten note from China.

She sent it to Amnesty International, who said the note, wrapped around a prison identity card, pleaded for help from the international community and condemned the Chinese government for alleged human rights violations.

The writer claimed to be a prisoner in the Xiang Nan Prison in China’s Hubei Province and forced to work 15 hours a day.

The dress contained a label reading “forced to work exhausting hours” A protest against alleged human rights issues at supply factories A statement from Primark said it was “clear” that the incidents arose from merchandise bought several years ago.

The dress and top from Swansea were made in different countries, although Primark did not specify which, but appeared to be of “a very similar type”, a company spokesman said.

They were on sale in 2013, whereas the trousers bought in Northern Ireland were last ordered by Primark in 2009.

The company claimed the factory where the trousers were made has been inspected nine times by its “ethical standards team” since 2009 and no prison or evidence of forced labour was found.

A spokesman for Primark said: “Despite growing suspicions in relation to the origin of the labels and the considerable time delay since the garments were bought, Primark knows its responsibilities to the workers in its supply chain and has already started detailed investigations.”

The retailer requested the return of the three items and investigations have started.

A statement said 10,000 factory audits have been carried out at suppliers since 2009 and said such incidents are treated “very seriously”.

Bangladeshi Garment workers sew T-shirts at a factory in Dhaka on March 18, 2009 Bangladeshi Garment workers sew T-shirts at a factory in Dhaka on March 18, 2009 Patrick Corrigan, the Northern Ireland programme director for Amnesty International, called on the government to amend its Modern Day Slavery Bill to up controls on company supply chains.

“It is a horrific tale,” he added. “It’s very difficult to know whether it's genuine, but the fear has to be that this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

It is the latest ethical setback for the retailer since the Rana Plaza factory disaster in 2013, in which more than 1,000 people died in a tragedy that raised questions about the way cut-price clothing for Primark and other Western clothing retailers was made.

Whatever the outcome of the investigation into the labels, the scandal has made many shoppers question the true price of discount fashion.

Rebecca Gallagher, 25, who bought the dress in Swansea, told the South Wales Evening

Read more: Primark shopper finds 'cry for help' stitched into dress
THE PRIMARK ‘CRY FOR HELP’ WON'T CHANGE MY SHOPPING HABITS
Perhaps it's time to stop bashing Primark - comment
Leading retailers shun sweatshops summit after Bangladesh disaster
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When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
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He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
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