Rosemary MacCabe’s Irish Times blog has generated a bit of excitement but I’m sure that it Rosemary wishes that commentators concentrated on the clothes and not the ethics. Extolling the virtues of Penny’s (Primark) cheap clothing is one thing but professing ignorance of their history of involvement with Asian sweat shops that use child labour is not something one would expect of a journalist employed by a reputable paper.
Rosemary is correct in saying that she’s not writing about business ethics. However, to go on and say that, “cost is not the deciding factor in whether or not a store or designer uses child labour, and that I don’t necessarily think banning child labour outright would be a positive move for anyone involved.” is ignorance in the extreme. While banning child labour is not in Primark’s best interests, to say that exploiting children is a positive because their families have no alternative is quite shocking. Children die, get injured and maimed while working 12 hour, and longer, days. They don’t get enough food, water or sleep, they are brutally beaten and suffer disability.
Maybe Rosemary would do well to do some research into the subject for her next Irish Times piece. She could do worse than look at the website of the International Labour Organization for more information. Primark has signed up to the Ethical Trading Initiative, under which it should, “contribute to policies and programmes which provide for the transition of any child found to be performing child labour to enable her or him to attend and remain in quality education until no longer a child.” However, there is no sign that Primark takes that responsibility seriously.