Squeezed by retail

I find it incredible that War on Want - whose report Fashion Victims: the True Cost of Cheap Clothes at Primark, Asda and Tesco, published last December, highlighted the appalling working conditions of retailers' outsourced workers in the developing world - was not invited to participate in the round-table discussion for your supplement The Future of the High Street (NS, 8 October), sponsored, no less, by Tesco.

In all the lavish helpings of spin, served up in the benign presence of an uncritical minister whose only utterance on the subject was that "we cannot allow this debate to cut across the wider objectives on world poverty", not a word was said about exploitation of workers in the supply chain. On their backs, in large part, rests the "economy of price" that "has been the driver of success in retail". Nor was a word said about how Tesco advised its shareholders to vote against the resolution I moved at the firm's AGM in June that mandated Tesco to guarantee decent working conditions, a living wage and independent auditing.

Benedict Birnberg
London SE3

This article first appeared in the 22 October 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Who’s afraid of Michael Moore?