How dis­hon­ourable, David

HE PLEDGED: to de­vote life to char­ity help­ing poor chil­dren of the world WE FOUND: firm sell­ing his clothes used child labour paid 13p an hour

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - From Ge­orge Knowles IN BURMA and Si­mon Mur­phy IN CAM­BO­DIA

SCAN­DAL-HIT David Beck­ham cham­pi­oned the global fight against child labour while chil­dren as young as 13 made clothes for the high street gi­ant sell­ing his mul­ti­mil­lion-pound fash­ion range, a Mail on Sun­day in­ves­ti­ga­tion has found.

We dis­cov­ered child labour abuse at fac­to­ries in Burma used by H&M, which sells the for­mer Eng­land cap­tain’s cloth­ing line.

Beck­ham an­nounced a high­pro­file Unicef fund in 2015 to com­bat global child ex­ploita­tion – as teenage girls were work­ing for as lit­tle as 13p an hour in H&M con­tracted fac­to­ries on the out­skirts of Burma’s cap­i­tal Yangon. Emails leaked ear­lier this month sug­gested Beck­ham hoped his Unicef cam­paign would help win him a knight­hood. How­ever, when he failed to re­ceive one, he branded mem­bers of the hon­ours com­mit­tee ‘un­ap­pre­cia­tive c **** ’.

One child worker told The Mail on Sun­day how – aged just 13 – she toiled for up to 12 hours a day in a fac­tory mak­ing H&M clothes and was or­dered to hide in the toi­lets or can­teen kitchen when in­spec­tors vis­ited. Although H&M claims to have cracked down on child labour abuses, a re­port by Dutch cam­paign­ers re­leased last week found some Burmese work­ers pro­duc­ing goods for the firm are paid just 13p an hour – or half the min­i­mum wage.

Burma’s labour laws al­low fac­to­ries to pay new work­ers re­duced rates.

While there is no sug­ges­tion Beck­ham knew of the use of child labour by H&M con­trac­tors in the Far East, a char­ity ex­posed the prac­tice in 2015 – three years into his store deal.

A labour rights cam­paigner said last night that Beck­ham should visit Burma – also known as Myan­mar – ar­gu­ing that as Unicef am­bas­sador he had a re­spon­si­bil­ity to in­ves­ti­gate where the com­pany sell­ing his branded goods sourced its clothes.

Beck­ham pock­eted millions from the five-year part­ner­ship with the Swedish firm to pro­duce his Beck­ham Body­wear un­der­wear and Mod­ern Es­sen­tials cloth­ing. The gar­ments were made in Burma, Cam­bo­dia, Bangladesh and China.

Although the deal has since come to an end – the foot­baller was al­legedly dropped to make way for younger celebri­ties – The Mail on Sun­day last week bought a £14.99 Mod­ern Es­sen­tials jumper from a Lon­don H&M store. Both ranges are still avail­able to buy on its web­site.

In Cam­bo­dia, where in 2015 cam­paign­ers re­ported ev­i­dence of child labour­ers work­ing at sub-con­trac­tors pro­duc­ing cloth­ing for H&M and other high-street stores, we also found work­ers strug­gling to sur­vive on mea­gre wages.

Beck­ham’s prof­itable part­ner­ship with the world’s se­cond big­gest clothes re­tailer con­tin­ued de­spite com­plaints from labour groups and char­i­ties that strict rules lim­it­ing the work­ing hours of girls aged 14 and 15 were be­ing flouted in a chain of sub­con­tracted H&M fac­to­ries in Burma.

Beck­ham launched the Unicef fund ‘7’ – named af­ter his fa­mous shirt num­ber – in Fe­bru­ary 2015, three years into the five-year H&M deal. He said he wanted to ‘help change the lives of millions of chil­dren’.

He boasted: ‘Ev­ery­thing I have done, my foot­ball ca­reer, my fam­ily, has led to this point. This is the mo­ment for me to do what I can to help chil­dren in every cor­ner of the world. This is some­thing I want my own chil­dren to be proud of.

‘The need to help chil­dren has never been greater and since re­tir­ing I have more time and I want to do so much more – 7 rep­re­sents my on­go­ing com­mit­ment to help­ing chil­dren who need it most around the world.’

At that time, how­ever, Aye Aye (not her real name), who had just turned 14, was work­ing 14-hour days in one of a chain of more than 20 fac­to­ries 5,500 miles away in Burma.

She be­gan work­ing in the Hun­dredTex fac­tory in Yangon’s Hlaing Thar town­ship at 13. She said she was one of 40 girls un­der 15 at the fac­tory, where 700 work­ers pro­duce cloth­ing for H&M.

She earned between £46.50 and £52 a month, in­clud­ing over­time, for work­ing from 8am un­til 10pm, six days a week.

The teenager – who has no idea who David Beck­ham is – showed the ID card of a 27-year-old rel­a­tive to se­cure her job but said man­agers knew her

‘Girls were told to hide when in­spec­tors ar­rived’

real age. ‘When buy­ers would visit for an in­spec­tion, su­per­vi­sors would tell me and the other young girls to hide in the toi­lets or the can­teen kitchen,’ she said. ‘They would shout, “Hey, buy­ers are com­ing. Go and hide”.’

The fac­tory was caught out in one in­spec­tion when Aye Aye was 15, and was forced to dis­miss 40 chil­dren un­der 16. Aye Aye was re-em­ployed, how­ever, and al­lowed to work for four hours a day un­til she turned 16 in Jan­uary. It is not known which of the

54 Burma sup­pli­ers and pro­ces­sors listed on H&M’s web­site pro­duced Beck­ham’s cloth­ing, or which of the 79 listed con­trac­tors in Cam­bo­dia made his un­der­wear. H&M re­fused to tell us.

The Hun­dred-Tex fac­tory now ap­pears to follow Burma labour laws, telling Aye Aye she is banned from do­ing over­time un­til she is 18. She cur­rently earns the equiv­a­lent of £62.50 a month for work­ing from 8am un­til 6pm, six days a week.

In 2015, Karl-Jo­han Pers­son, the bil­lion­aire boss of H&M, said: ‘Buy­ing from low-wage coun­tries is the sin­gle big­gest fac­tor con­tribut­ing to elim­i­nat­ing or re­duc­ing poverty. It’s cre­at­ing jobs and tak­ing these coun­tries on to the right track.’

The group – whose lat­est an­nual prof­its were £1.7bil­lion – opened 427 stores across the globe in 2016.

Thurein Aung, chair­man of Ac­tion Labour Rights, said labour vi­o­la­tions in Burma were ram­pant, not only at fac­to­ries mak­ing H&M cloth­ing but also at those cre­at­ing goods for other stores such as Next. ‘As a Unicef am­bas­sador, David Beck­ham should know about the sit­u­a­tion in the gar­ment in­dus­try here,’ he said. ‘Mr Beck­ham should come here to help raise aware­ness so that peo­ple can learn more about child labour abuse.’

In Cam­bo­dia, char­ity Hu­man Rights Watch found in 2015 that sub-con­trac­tors for H&M and other Western firms were us­ing child labour be­low the legally per­mis­si­ble age of 15, and that those chil­dren were made to work as hard as adult em­ploy­ees.

H&M said last night in a state­ment: ‘It is of ut­most im­por­tance to us that all our prod­ucts are made un­der good work­ing con­di­tions and with con­sid­er­a­tion to the en­vi­ron­ment, health and safety.

‘H&M group is one of the lead­ing fash­ion re­tail­ers glob­ally when it comes to sus­tain­abil­ity, and have for many years put great ef­forts to im­prove work­ing con­di­tions and strengthen work­ers’ rights. Our pres­ence in the pro­duc­tion coun­tries, in­clud­ing Myan­mar, is es­sen­tial in this work.

‘Child labour is to­tally un­ac­cept­able for H&M group. It is clearly stated in our strict Sus­tain­abil­ity Com­mit­ment that our sup­pli­ers must sign and com­ply with.

‘All work­ers must be over the le­gal work­ing age set by na­tional leg­is­la­tion as well as the In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s con­ven­tions.’ Unicef and Beck­ham’s spokesman de­clined to com­ment.

MoS learns H&M made some of its Beck­ham range in Burma. We track down fac­to­ries among firm’s sup­pli­ers (right and be­low). Some have used chil­dren as young as 13 work­ing up to 12hr days Beck­ham signs lu­cra­tive fiveyear deal with H&M in 2012 to en­dorse David Beck­ham cloth­ing line, in­clud­ing T-shirts, pants and knitwear. Sales see com­pany’s turnover soar by £60 mil­lion in a year

BRIEFS ENCOUNTER: Beck­ham in his H&M un­der­wear Leaked emails re­veal Beck­ham used his char­ity work as part of a cam­paign to win a knight­hood. Re­ports claimed the hon­our was blocked over his in­volve­ment in tax-avoid­ance scheme Af­ter re­tir­ing, he launches char­ity fund say­ing: ‘This is the mo­ment for me to do what I can to help chil­dren in every cor­ner of the world. I want my own chil­dren to be proud of me.’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.