Retailer C&A investigates prison labor allegations

Dutch fashion retailer C&A is currently investigating whether it is true that part of its clothing is made and packaged by Chinese prison laborers. The investigation follows allegations made by British former journalist and business researcher, Peter Humphrey.

C&A branch in Arnhem, the Netherlands - Diederik van der Laan / Kiki Reijners for C&A

Humphrey revealed last weekend in the British newspaper, Financial Times, that Chinese detainees have to make clothes for well-known clothing brands, including C&A and Swedish retailer H&M. Humphrey himself spent two years in a prison in Shanghai after he was arrested for ‘illegally collecting private data from Chinese citizens’. At the time he was investigating a smear campaign against the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.

In the Financial Times article, published on February 16, 2018, Humphrey describes how the prison put prisoners to work for large companies: “It was piece work; a hundred of this, a thousand of that. Full-time, they earned about Yn120 (£13.50) a month. But it was also about points. There was a sentence-reduction system based on points earned through labor — work such as floor cleaning, food serving, teaching and approved study,” Humphrey explained in the newspaper.

In a statement to FashionNetwork.com, C&A Europe commented: “We never tolerate any kind of forced or bonded labor in our supply chain. This is backed by our rigorous supplier code of conduct and audit programme, where if forced labor is found, the supplier is immediately terminated. This includes any kind of prison labor. We audit all 273 of our suppliers’ factories in China on at least annually basis, and have not observed or been made aware of the use of prison labor in our Chinese supply chain. To enhance our approach, our sustainable supply chain auditors and quality assurance teams have practices in place to detect unauthorized subcontracting that could ultimately lead to forced or bonded labor at the factory level.”

In addition, C&A said that it takes the allegations that were made by Humphrey ‘very seriously’ and that it is currently trying to obtain more information on the case.

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