Monday, February 09, 2004

Wealth concentrated in corporations empowers slavery

Title: UK retailers blamed for rise in slave labour
Source: Guardian Unlimited
Date: February 9, 2004

From the article:
    Big-brand fashion and food retailers are accused of contributing to appalling employment conditions around the world in a new study by Oxfam published today.
    Using their power at the top of global supply chains, companies with ruthless buying practices are squeezing their suppliers to deliver faster and more cheaply, the aid agency says. The effect is to drive down wages and compromise the welfare of the workers.

    "There is a widening gap between the rhetoric of global corporate social responsibility and the reality of corporate practice," Oxfam's policy director, Justin Forsyth, said.

    The report, Trading Away Our Rights, gathers research from 12 countries and inter views with more than 1,000 workers, factory owners, global brand owners, importers, exporters, and union and government officials.

    It adds to concerns aired by the government's food and farming tsar, Sir Don Curry, that the impact of price wars is being unfairly felt by those at the bottom of the chain.
    At one US-owned factory in Kenya where jeans are made for Wal-Mart, price pressure has led to hourly production targets that are almost impossible to reach. The factory rules allow unions, but in April 2003, when workers went on strike to demand decent pay, most union members were fired.
    Overtime is long and underpaid, and fear of being fired reportedly stifles complaint.

    In Thailand a garment manufacturing company supplying big brand-name companies closed down overnight, leaving 900 workers without pay.
    Factories supplying Wal-Mart, Toys R Us and Tommy Hilfiger were found to have false documents on hours and wages and to coach workers on how to answer inspectors' questions.
Wealthy corporations have the power to crush workers in third world nations when they choose to do so. The basic equation is simple. A large corporation goes to a poor country and says to its impoverished people, "We will pay you 10 cents an hour for your labor. And really, what choice do you have? Work for us at that wage or starve." It is an incredible abuse of power.

Meanwhile, those same corporations have left behind millions of unemployed workers when they moved their factories off-shore.


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