European chains ‘profit on back of Syrian refugees in Turkish factories’

Syrian refugee boys seen working at a small textile factory in Gaziantep, Turkey, in this July 2016 file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 03 November 2017
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European chains ‘profit on back of Syrian refugees in Turkish factories’

LONDON: Some of Europe’s biggest stores are failing to stem the abuse of Syrian refugees who work in the Turkish factories that supply their clothes, a business pressure group said on Friday.
The Business and Human Rights Resource Center (BHRRC) called on the worst offenders — from fashion icon Topshop to discounter Aldi — to better protect refugee workers who have fled war only to suffer workplace exploitation in their new home.
Low wages, discrimination and poor conditions are common for Syrian refugees working in Turkey’s multibillion-dollar garment industry, where child labor is also a problem, said the BHRRC.
“Some high street fashion brands ... have made progress in protecting workers, but too many, like Aldi, Asda and Topshop, are lagging way behind,” Phil Bloomer, executive director of the BHRRC, said in a statement.
“They should learn from the leaders, and quickly.”
The Britain-based charity surveyed 37 major European brands with Turkish factories in their supply chains on the policies and practices undertaken to tackle the abuse of workers.
Companies including supermarket chains Aldi and Asda and fashion retailer Arcadia — which owns the Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge brands — are not doing enough to stop the exploitation, the BHRRC survey found.
ASOS, New Look, Next, SuperDry and Zara were the top ranking brands in the survey; Asda and Arcadia came bottom. Six companies, including Mexx and River Island, failed to respond.
The charity said more brands had boosted efforts to clean up their supply chains compared to last year, with the top performers establishing plans to protect refugees, mechanisms to handle complaints, and initiating dialogue with workers’ groups.
More than 3 million Syrian refugees — about half aged under 18 — have fled to Turkey to escape a war that erupted in 2011.
About 650,000 are estimated to be working in Turkey, many in the garment industry, yet most lack work permits, leaving them at greater risk of abuse, the BHRRC said.
A Reuters investigation last year found evidence of Syrian refugee children in Turkey working in clothes factories in illegal conditions. Turkey bans children under 15 from working.
“The Syrian refugee crisis poses a complex challenge for retailers sourcing garments from Turkey,” said Peter McAllister, head of the Ethical Trading Initiative, an alliance of trade unions, firms and charities promoting workers’ rights.
“Refugees are particularly vulnerable to exploitation,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “More needs to be done, but we are confident our member companies are taking it seriously.”
A spokesman for Walmart, which owns Asda, said the company was exploring how to address the risks to vulnerable workers in its global supply chain, with a focus on ethical recruitment.
The British Retail Consortium, which counts Aldi among its members, said more needed to be done to prevent exploitation.
The chairman of the Istanbul Apparel Exporters’ Association, which represents three-quarters of Turkey’s clothing exporters, said Syrian refugee workers holding work permits were protected by the country’s “very strict laws” on working regulations.
“Portraying a few exceptional cases that could happen even in the most developed countries around the world as Turkey’s reality is not befitting of fairness and good intentions,” Hikmet Tanriverdi said in a statement on Friday.
Topshop declined to comment on the BHRRC survey, Arcadia did not respond to requests for comment, and Mexx and River Island could not be reached.
— REUTERS


‘Get prices down’ Trump tells OPEC

Updated 20 September 2018
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‘Get prices down’ Trump tells OPEC

  • Trump highlights US security role in region
  • Comments come ahead of oil producers meeting in Algeria

LONDON: US president Donald Trump urged OPEC to lower crude prices on Thursday while reminding Mideast oil exporters of US security support.
He made his remarks on Twitter ahead of a keenly awaited meeting of OPEC countries and its allies in Algiers this weekend as pressure mounts on them to prevent a spike in prices caused by the reimposition of oil sanctions on Iran.
“We protect the countries of the Middle East, they would not be safe for very long without us, and yet they continue to push for higher and higher oil prices!” he tweeted.
“We will remember. The OPEC monopoly must get prices down now!”
Despite the threat, the group and its allies are unlikely to agree to an official increase in output, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing OPEC sources.
In June they agreed to increase production by about one million barrels per day (bpd). That decision was was spurred by a recovery in oil prices, in part caused by OPEC and its partners agreeing to lower production since 2017.
Known as OPEC+, the group of oil producers which includes Russia are due to meet on Sunday in Algiers to look at how to allocate the additional one million bpd within its quote a framework.
OPEC sources told Reuters that there was no immediate plan for any official action as such a move would require OPEC to hold what it calls an extraordinary meeting, which is not on the table.
Oil prices slipped after Trumps remarks, with Brent crude shedding 40 cents to $79 a barrel in early afternoon trade in London while US light crude was unchanged at about $71.12.
Brent had been trading at around $80 on expectations that global supplies would come under pressure from the introduction of US sanctions on Iranian crude exports on Nov. 4.
Some countries has already started to halt imports from Tehran ahead of that deadline, leading analysts to speculate about how much spare capacity there is in the Middle East to compensate for the loss of Iranian exports as well as how much of that spare capacity can be easily brought online after years of under-investment in the industry.
Analysts expect oil to trend higher and through the $80 barrier as the deadline for US sanctions approaches.
“Brent is definitely fighting the $80 line, wanting to break above,” said SEB Markets chief commodities analyst Bjarne Schieldrop, Reuters reported. “But this is likely going to break very soon.”