Another day, another blow to the attempts of some of our biggest retailers to portray themselves as the caring, sharing, compassionate face of capitalism.

Asda, Tesco and Primark are all in the frame after a new report revealed the scale of abuse faced by workers in Bangladesh working an 80-hour week for as little as 4p an hour to produce bargain basement clothes for British consumers.

Yet all three retailers have signed up to the Ethical Trade Initiative, the voluntary code of conduct which sets out basic rights for employees. These rights include a working week of no more 48 hours, voluntary overtime not exceeding 12 hours a week, and payment of a “living wage”.

The latest revelation comes after Tesco’s board faced criticism from some of its own shareholders about abuse of workers employed by foreign suppliers.

Both Asda and Primark are now taking a fresh look at those supplying them. Tesco maintained it could only take action if it was supplied with details of the factories in question, although it claims to have started a thorough audit of all Bangladeshi suppliers before this study was released.

Of course, the issue will not be resolved by signing up to the likes of the ETI.

As long as consumers demand cut-price clothing, then retailers will look to cut costs and drive down the prices they pay to suppliers in order to make profits.


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