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Shopper shocked to find bargain £10 dress has 'exhausted labour' tag

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: June 25, 2014

  • Rebecca Gallagher of Gowerton, whose Primark top had a note stitched into the label which reads: "Forced to work exhausting hours."

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A SWANSEA shopper is vowing not to wear a bargain dress she claims to have bought in the city because it may be the result of exploitive labour.

Rebecca Gallagher was shocked to read a label in a bargain £10 summer dress she claims she bought from a High Street fashion chain because it read: "Forced to work exhausting hours".

The 25-year-old from Gowerton spotted the handmade label sewn into the multi-coloured top she says was from discount store Primark.

And she has vowed never to wear it again because of the fear it was made by a tired worker toiling in a foreign sweatshop.

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Miss Gallagher claimed: "I was amazed when I checked for the washing instructions and spotted this label.

"It was stitched by hand to say 'Forced to work exhausting hours' and sewn in with the other normal labels.

"To be honest I've never really thought much about how the clothes are made.

"But this really made me think about how we get our cheap fashion.

"I dread to think that my summer top may be made by some exhausted person toiling away for hours in some sweatshop abroad."

Miss Gallagher, mum to a three-year-old daughter, claimed the label was stitched into the other labels giving Primark addresses in Spain and Ireland along with washing instructions.

She added: "I've got no idea who put it there but it really took the wind out of my sails.

"It makes me think that it was a cry for help — to let us people in Britain know what is going on.

"I even rung Primark to ask them about it. But I was put on hold for 15 minutes before being cut off.

"I would dread to think that this might involve child labour and people's terrible working conditions.

"You hear all sorts of stories about people working in sweatshops abroad — it made me feel so guilty that I can never wear that dress again."

Miss Gallagher's partner, Gareth Kershaw, 29, said: "We all like a bargain but this really makes you think about the people making your clothes — and how hard they are working so you can have cheap fashion."

A Primark spokesman said there had been 'no other incidents of this kind' relating to this dress.

He added: "We would be grateful if the customer would give us the dress, so we can investigate how the additional label became attached and whether there are issues which need to be looked into."

UPDATE: A second shopper has come forward with a 'sweatshop' label, found in a Primark dress, said to have been bought in the Swansea store.A woman from Northern Ireland has also come forward, with a 'cry for help' note, handwritten in Chinese, apparently found in a pair of Primark trousers.

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  • Scroggins  |  June 26 2014, 3:03PM

    I recall several years ago a reporter doing a story on sweatshop conditions in Brazil. She picked on one family and told the story from their point of view, and then returned to the UK to tackle the company here. A couple of years later she went back to see how well the family was doing. She found them sorting through rubbish on the dumps. The campaign had worked so well the company shut the factory down and moved it to China. Well done interfering miss!

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  • Jiffy  |  June 26 2014, 7:44AM

    Some posters here are living in a parallel universe. Huge numbers of people in the UK are struggling on sweat shop wages, they have zero hours contracts at minimum wages and many are sinking into debt. Being able to buy cheap clothing makes a difference. If you don't want cheap clothes, don't shop at Primark. Go to M&S if you like, that nice company who forced many local people out of work when the decided to buy from abroad.

  • cognizant  |  June 25 2014, 3:09PM

    @KateSeamark: The truth is you can't tell whether your eggs come from free range or caged chickens from the box. The regulations that dictate that labeling are weak, and investigative journalism is showing that much of the "free range" chickens spend 95% of their lives in a cage. You can't go off retailer labels, you have to be a more research oriented consumer to really know what you're getting.

  • KateSeamark  |  June 24 2014, 4:14PM

    I think it's outrageous that fashion retailers are under no obligation to tell us about the work and pay conditions along their supply chain! We can tell from the box whether our eggs are free range or caged, but not whether our clothing is made in sweatshops or decent factories. I think shoppers have a right to know. Clothes should be labelled just like eggs. If you agree please sign and share my petition here: http://tinyurl.com/k2wkxvp

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  • jayne2709  |  June 18 2014, 12:39PM

    I teach Sustainable Leadership (ethics etc). I wonder Rebecca, if I could have the dress? It will make a really interesting student discussion. I would be happy to pay for the dress.

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  • TaipeiSteve  |  June 16 2014, 7:14PM

    Slim2010: I understand your point, and, yes, there will always be someone willing to work in sweatshop, because at least the meagre salary lifts the worker above the starvation line. However, sweatshops are very similar to the prostitution racket in many underdeveloped countries, as both kinds of workers engage in their professions as a means to take themselves and their families out of dire poverty. Of course, the prostitutes and the factory workers could keep their family in abject poverty, and so it could be argued that it is their own chose to take the work. In reality, though, there is often little or no option. So, while this kind of work cannot be defined as slave labour, it is definitely extremely exploitative. I have personally visited sweatshops and I know the conditions and also the family backgrounds of many of the labours. Believe me, it is not a pretty scenario. Anyway, good on you, Rebecca, for making a stance. It won't make a huge difference, but as they say in Taiwan: "It is better to light one candle than ti complain about the dark".

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  • Gonchong  |  June 16 2014, 1:22PM

    I doubt if it's true, most 'sweat shops' employ locals who can't afford the education to get a better job, so for one of them to know and write in excellent English is very unlikely. The girl who bought it probably wanted her 5 mins of fame! Good luck!

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  • slim2010  |  June 16 2014, 12:51PM

    Well if people don't buy these cheap frocks then the people who make them will have not have to labour. They won't get paid of course so will starve as the countries that produce these cheap goods have no socaial security. I can guarantee that for this one worker who is complaining there will be many more willing to work for the same pay and conditions,

    |   -20
  • Jiffy  |  June 16 2014, 11:25AM

    There's nothing to stop Rebecca Gallagher from buying a posh frock from an expensive shop, but there's no guarantee that it wasn't made in the same kind of sweat shop as the frock from Primark http://tinyurl.com/nm8baua

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