Anti-poverty bands made with forced labour, Oxfam says
White wristbands sold by the Make Poverty History coalition were made in Chinese factories accused of using forced labour, it has been disclosed.
The fashionable white wristbands, worn by celebrities and politicians, including Tony Blair, were made for a coalition of charities as the symbol of its 2005 campaign to end extreme poverty.
Oxfam, Christian Aid and Cafod are among those charities selling the wristbands, made in rubber and fabric, for £1 each, of which 70p goes to the organisations.
But reports on two factories making the bands found the working conditions violated Chinese law and the standards of the Ethical Trading Initiative, which promotes better international working practices. "We were stupid," said Dominic Nutt at Christian Aid. "We didn't check it out, Cafod didn't check it out, and Oxfam didn't check it out."
At one of the factories, the Tat Shing Rubber Manufacturing Company in Shenzen, employees were working a seven-day week for less than the minimum wage, with no annual leave, no right to freedom of association, and poor health and safety provisions, one report said.
At the Fuzhou Xing Chun Trade Company, workers were being paid below the minimum wage and having pay deducted for disciplinary reasons, the other report said. About three million bands have been sold since the campaign began in January, almost two million of them in the UK. Most of the bands are fabric and not made in the two factories, which produced silicon versions. Continued...
"Thus began one of the boldest aid operations of the 20th century, which surmounted an American and British-led embargo designed to punish Cambodia's liberator, Vietnam. By the sheer ingenuity and political wisdom of its actions and domestic campaigns, Oxfam saved and restored countless people. Later, in demanding that the west stop supporting the Khmer Rouge in exile, Oxfam incurred the hostility of the Thatcher and Reagan governments and was threatened with the loss of its charitable tax-free status. This was clearly meant as a warning to the independent aid organisations, or "NGOs", lest they became too "radical". Many have since embraced a version of corporatism and a closeness to the British government, whose neoliberal trade policies remain a source of much of the world's poverty.
On 27 May, the watchdog ActionAid will publish an extraordinary, damning report, Real Aid: an agenda for making aid work. With the G8 meeting at Gleneagles in Scotland in July, and the Blair government (and other European governments) propagating the nonsense that it is on the side of the world's poor, the report reveals that the government is inflating the value of its already minimal aid to poor countries by a third, and that the majority of all western aid is actually "phantom aid", which means that it has nothing to do with the reduction of poverty."