TUESDAY 9 DEC 2008 10:46 PM


Associated British Foods faces protests at its AGM today (5 December) over alleged exploitation of workers making clothes for its discount fashion chain, Primark.

Campaigners are demonstrating outside Primark’s flagship store in London’s Oxford Street, while Bangladeshi workers, stars from BBC reality show Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts, and a small army of campaigners are lobbying shareholders arriving at the AGM in nearby Great Russell Street.

Primark is a huge retail success. Despite the slowdown in consumer spending, the chain’s like-for-like sales were up 4% in the year to 13 September, contributing to ABF’s 3% rise in annual profits to £632m.

But it’s facing a PR crisis with a series of allegations from campaigners in the UK, Bangladesh and India.

When Panorama exposed the use of child labour in its supply chains in June, Primark sacked three suppliers as a result.

Today campaigners will argue that the company is ignoring rising basic living costs in Bangladesh, leaving employees there worse off than two years ago, when charities first exposed their hardship. High inflation and increasing fuel costs means the price of rice has rocketed by 70%. The average Primark worker’s pay is now less than half a living wage, campaigners say.

The fashion giant recently cancelled a showing at PR Week's 'Taking the Drama Out of a Crisis' event in November. Head of External Relations Geoff Lancaster was due to speak about how they had weathered the storm, but pulled out citing planned protests.

No one at ABF was available for comment today.