A cry for help on a Primark label? Apparently not, the retailer says

A cry for help on a Primark label? Apparently not, the retailer says

Value fashion retailer Primark says notes and messages found in its clothing -supposedly from garment workers suffering "degrading sweatshop conditions" and "forced to work exhausting hours" - are a hoax.

The retailer today (27 June) said it came to this conclusion following a detailed investigation into three cases in which a hand-embroidered label was found sewn into its products.

"The labels are clearly from the same source," the retailer says. "It is almost impossible to imagine circumstances in which such similar labels could have been sewn onto the garments at the factory where they were made, given that they were made by different suppliers, in different factories, on different continents, one in Romania and the other in India, thousands of miles apart."

Both garments carrying the hoax labels were bought from Primark's Swansea store in 2013. This  coincides with an exhibition of labels of a similar kind, also in Swansea in 2013, which encouraged visitors to sew labels, using similar wording and appearance to the hoax labels, onto clothing.

Primark had earlier said it was "suspicious" about whether or not the labels were genuine.

And it is continuing to look into the discovery of a note in a pair of cropped trousers purchased in Northern Ireland, with investigations being carried out in the UK and China. The trousers were last ordered by Primark in early 2009 and were on sale until October 2009.

"We find it very strange that this too has come to light so recently, given that the trousers were on sale four years ago," the company said.

It added: "Since 2009, Primark has carried out some 10,000 factory audits of its suppliers. All incidents of this kind are treated very seriously and happen rarely."

In particular, Primark's ethical standards team has carried out nine inspections of the supplier who made the trousers since 2009. "To be clear, no prison or other forced labour of any kind was found during these inspections."

In a separate incident reported by Amnesty International this week, a shopper in Northern Ireland also claimed to have found a note from a Chinese prisoner in a pair of Primark trousers bought three years ago.

The handwritten note was wrapped around a prison identity card, and alleges slave labour conditions in the Xiang Nan Prison in China's Hubei Province where prisoners are forced to work 15 hours a day making clothes for export.

Primark insists it has a strict code of ethics, and "investigates all allegations of breaches of its Code of Conduct immediately to ensure the well-being of workers in its supply chain."

Primark's Code of Conduct sets out the core principles that suppliers must follow to ensure products are made in good working conditions and that the people making them are treated decently and are paid a fair wage. 

The retailer is a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), and its Code is based on the ETI Base Code. Furthermore, it says it has a team of 45 people who inspect each factory, and that around 2,058 inspections were carried out in 2013 alone. 

Primark was one of the companies sourcing from New Wave Bottoms, a supplier based in the Rana Plaza building that collapsed in Bangladesh last year. The retailer was one of the first to commit to compensation payments in the aftermath of the disaster, and was the first UK retailer to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.