O’Neills urged to be transparent about how sports gear is manufactured

A group lobbying for better working conditions in Bangladesh clothes factories has called on O’Neills to be transparent in how its sports gear is manufactured.

O’Neills urged to be transparent about how sports gear is manufactured

O’Neills has admitted sourcing products from Bangladesh, where the legal minimum wage is less than 25% of what a person needs to live outside of poverty.

The Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland, part of a global alliance of organisations seeking to improve working conditions in the global garment industry, recently asked Irish retailers what they were doing to ensure garment workers received a wage they could live on.

Neither Dunnes Stores’ nor O’Neills suppliers’ were able to give even basic information on codes of conduct on ethical trading policies. Only Penneys shared its projects and ongoing work in relation to workers’ wages.

Last weekend, O’Neill’s marketing manager, Cormac Farrell, told a Sunday newspaper it does source some products from Bangladesh.

O’Neills, founded in 1918, said its standards were “up to spec” where work ethics were concerned.

It also produced certificates in relation to the Bangladesh factory’s compliance in its organic textile production standards.

Mr Farrell said O’Neills had a strict ethical policy and all suppliers had to agree to a code that included the prohibition of forced labour and child labour; compliance with local laws; and all workers receive the minimum wage or greater.

Kate Nolan of Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland said she was glad O’Neills had responded to queries on its supply chain.

“All retailers operating in high risk countries need to execute due diligence and make sure they are not infringing on human rights,” said Ms Nolan.

“It is fair enough that they want to find cheaper wages, but they must ensure that they are paying enough for people to live with dignity and outside of poverty.”

She said O’Neills should ensure the factory it deals with in Bangladesh paid workers a living wage, not the legal minimum wage.

Ms Nolan said clothes manufacturers could no longer export their responsibility and Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland would be looking for improvements in the supply chain.

“Retailers should be looking for assurances that the workers were receiving a living wage, and there are simple ways of doing that,” said Ms Nolan.

A recent survey by the lobby group found only four brands out of 39 — Inditex (Zara), Marks and Spencers, Switcher, and Tchibo — could show they had taken steps to ensure wages should meet workers’ basic needs.

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