Primark said that the “apparent practices” shown in the undercover investigation on a BBC News broadcast last night “are a matter of great concern to Primark”.
Footage of the BBC’s investigation is available on the BBC website.
The report revealed the findings of an undercover reporter sent to work at Manchester-based TNS Knitwear to investigate claims the supplier employed illegal immigrants, paid staff below the minimum wage and made them work 12 hour days. TNS Knitwear has disputed the allegations.
Primark, which is undertaking a full investigation in to the supplier after undertaking two audits in April and December last year, said: “Primark apologises for the harm and distress to the innocent employees of both TNS and TNS’ sub-contractor Fashion Wave”.
It said that “ethical business practices are of great importance” and that it works to ensure that its suppliers “conform to the highest standards of behaviour”.
However, it conceded that it would investigate its audit process in this particular case. A “corrective action plan” had been put in place at the retailer to deal with issues discovered in initial audits, which was due to complete “in the very near future”.
Primark has reported the alleged illegalities to the relevant authorities.
Primark added in a statement: “The illicit practices uncovered by the Primark audits and the BBC investigation are unacceptable wherever they occur. Unfortunately some of these practices, for example employing illegal workers, are widespread in the UK, with all employers and contractors - even government agencies - at risk, irrespective of the price of the end products. This does not make them acceptable but does demonstrate they are hard to detect.
“Notwithstanding this, Primark is never complacent, and will continue to do all it can to ensure that its audit process is robust and that shoppers can continue to have faith in Primark’s ethics and its values.”
Copies of the audits and the corrective action plan are available at Ethicalprimark.co.uk.