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Canadian OXFaM cited for rank hypocrisy

By Judi McLeod
Thursday, June 2, 2005

Toronto, ON-- Fred Strong, son of UN Secretary-General Kofi annan right hand man Maurice Strong, is involved with OXFaM Canada, one of the charities recently accused of "rank hypocrisy" for doing business with Chinese sweatshops while campaigning for "fair and ethical trade".

Strong and his father Maurice were in headlines last month for their involvement in the now defunct Cordex Petroleum Inc., the company whose directors allegedly accepted $1-million from the Saddam Hussein regime through "Koreagate Man" Tongsun Park.

Lib-left forces have stepped up high-profile campaign to rid the planet of poverty. When it was revealed that the very labour force manufacturing the promotion tools were overworked and underpaid, they found themselves in hot water.

OXFaM, along with Christian aid, and Cafod, were caught up not practicing what they preach.

Hundreds of thousands of wristbands, engraved with the words "Make Poverty History" have been sold in Britain.

"Wristbands sold to raise money for a campaign against world poverty are made in Chinese sweatshops in `slave labour' conditions," the Sunday Telegraph revealed.

The "shocking" conditions were disclosed in confidential "ethical audits" of factories that make the ultra-fashionable white wristbands for the Make Poverty History campaign, started by a coalition of more than 400 charities.

Bob Geldof, who last week confirmed a follow-up to the 1985 Live aid concert--to coincide with the G8 summit in July--called for action when he heard the news.

"The charities should pull out of deals with those companies immediately or set a firm deadline for improvements and pull out if the improvements are not met," he said. One senior official with a British charity described the labour abuses as "deeply shocking".

He said: "This is appalling. It goes against everything we stand for. If we are criticizing big companies for trading unethically then we have to be whiter than white."

Hundreds of thousands of wristbands, made in fabric or silicone, have been sold in Britain, with pop stars, footballers and politicians--including Tony Blair--see wearing them. They cost �1, of which 70p goes to the charities.

It seems that employees in Chinese factories making the silicon versions have little in the way of "ethical standards".

"a report on the Tat Shing Rubber Manufacturing Company in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, dated april 12, 2005, accuses it of using forced labour by taking financial deposits from new employees in violation of Chinese law and the Ethical Trading Initiative set up to promote international standards for working condition," the Sunday Telegraph reports.

The audit uncovered a list of "weaknesses" including poor health and safety provision, long hours, a seven-day week, workers cheated out o pay, inadequate insurance, no annual leave and no right to freedom of association.

an audit at the Fuzhou Xing Chun Trade Company in Fujian province found workers paid at below the local minimum hourly wage of 2.39 yuan (just under 16p) and some as little as 1.39 yuan (9p).

Now that it's out there in the public domain, the audits have sparked a right royal row between some of the charities involved. Christian aid, which has bought more than 500,000 wristbands claims that OXFaM failed to tip other charities off that it had decided to stop ordering from the Shenzhen company.

a spokesman said: "OXFaM placed an order and told us the Chinese company was ethically OK. We accepted that and ordered wristbands in good faith."

"If OXFaM had concerns about ethical standards they did not pass them on for a considerable time."

OXFaM said it informed its coalition partners of its decision in January, but a spokesman said: "We could have perhaps put it in writing to make it absolutely clear. We bought an initial 10,000 wristbands from the Shenzhen company in November. We now see that purchasing this before we had seen a final audit was a mistake."

The Canadian charity turned instead to the Fujian factory for 1.5 million wristbands, but only, it said after assurances that problems were being tackled.

Guess government-funded liberal charities campaigning against poverty want to Make Poverty History everywhere--except that is for thousands of workers in Chinese sweatshops.

Canada Free Press founding editor Most recent by Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years experience in the print media. Her work has appeared on, Drudge Report,, Glenn Beck. Judi can be reached at: [email protected]

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