On the first day of Christmas my love did not buy me, an Amazon delivery;
On the second day of Christmas my love did not buy me…… a Samsung smart phone:
On the third day of Christmas my love did not buy me …..…trainers from Sports Direct:
On the fourth day of Christmas my love not buy me…..….a computer from HP:
On the fifth day of Christmas my love did not buy me………..an Apple i-pad:
On the sixth day of Christmas my love did not buy me..……a shirt from Primark:
On the seventh day of Christmas my love did not buy me … any cosmetics from Boots UK:
On the eighth day of Christmas my love did not buy me……… clothes from H&M:
On the ninth day of Christmas my love did not buy me…. jumpers from Uniqlo:
On the tenth day of Christmas my love did not buy me….. anything from Argos:
On the eleventh day of Christmas my love did not buy me…. any cosmetics by L’Oreal:
On the twelfth day of Christmas my love did not buy me……. a Dyson vacuum cleaner.
Amazon UK is a world leader in tax avoidance – in 2016 it paid £7.4 million in tax on sales of £1.5 billion. Amazon has resisted unionisation both in the USA and in the UK, to enable it to continue to abuse workers, deploying GPS tagging, harsh and exhausting working conditions, and zero-hour contracts. Amazon van delivery drivers have to do 200 deliveries a day, and after deductions (such as van hire and insurance) drivers can be paid less than half the UK minimum wage. Please note Amazon now includes the anti-union Whole Foods Markets, so don’t go there for your xmas treats….
Samsung is a family-controlled conglomerate or chaebol, a complex web of circular investments involving many companies, the very structure of which is inherently corrupt, to maintain family control despite predominantly institutional ownership. Samsung’s billionaire chief, Lee Jae-Yong, was heavily involved in the embezzlement scandal that toppled South Korean President Park Geun-hye last year. Lee gave bribes worth $36 million to Park and her confidante to help win government support for a smooth leadership transfer from Lee’s ailing father to Lee, hid assets overseas, concealed proceeds from criminal activities and committed perjury.
Samsung has a reputation for modern technology, but this conceals 19th century working conditions for the estimated 1,500,000 workers in its web of subcontractors and subsidiaries that blankets South-east Asia. Samsung’s “no-union” policy affects the entire Asian electronics industry. In leaked material, management decrees specific “countermeasures” to be used to “dominate employees,” aiming to “isolate employees”, “punish leaders” and “induce internal conflicts.” Samsung taps workers’ phones, follows them, and approaches their families with threats. With a precariously-employed workforce, inhumane conditions are rife. According to China Labor Watch, employees at Samsung factories, some under-aged, suffer through 100 hours of forced overtime per month, unpaid work, standing for 11 to 12 hours, verbal and physical abuse, severe age and gender discrimination, and lack of worker safety.
Sports Direct is the largest sporting retailer in the United Kingdom, with around 465 stores. At its Shirebrook headquarters it has 200 permanent employees, and over 3,000 agency workers who are mainly east Europeans working at just above the minimum wage, facilitated by EU rules. These agency workers are effectively on zero-hour contracts for most of the year – they have to be available for work even when none is offered and so cannot take other jobs. If they raise any grievance or go off sick, they will be laid off – there is neither security nor justice, with management having unreasonable powers to discipline them or dismiss them at will. Workers being forced to come to work whatever their health has led to multiple ambulance call outs for emergencies, including to a woman giving birth in the toilets – all this insecurity despite the fact that the flow of work is more or less predictable. Because workers had to wait in a queue to be searched before they could leave, many actually were paid below the minimum wage. They are prey to recurrent bullying including sexual harassment. Workers without a bank account were offered a pre-paid debit card onto which their wage was paid, but they were charged extortionately and some of these profits were paid back to the employing agency, and many were charged for insurance products that they neither needed nor understood. Lateness of clocking in by just one minute resulted in a deduction of 15 minutes’ pay. After a Parliamentary committee issued a damning report, and after the owner had eventually agreed to be interviewed by them and had had to admit to some of the abuses, conditions may have marginally improved, but the basic employment model is of course unchanged, and serving as a model for future employment in the UK generally.
HP provides and manages contracts worth millions with Israeli authorities involving systems of surveillance and identification that are directly used in the domination of Palestinians. One subsidiary EDS Israel is the main contractor of the Basel system of automated access control, that uses magnetic cards and biometric information at checkpoints in the Occupied Territories, declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004. HP are also involved in the ID card system which reinforces Israel’s ethnically tiered citizenship structure widely equated with apartheid, as well as supplying equipment used in the Israeli navy blockade of Gaza. HP uses a technology service provider that is based in an illegal West Bank settlement.
Unfortunately, you can’t get away from the crimes of Samsung by buying an Apple product because some components come from Samsung and because the fierce anti-union and anti-workers’ rights methods used by Samsung have affected the whole South-East Asia electronics industry, promoting a culture of exploiting unpaid internships, forced and unpaid overtime, child labour, and long working hours.
For example at one Apple supplier, Pegatron, systems of exploitation included in 2013 under-age labour, contract violations, insufficient wages, abuse by management, poor working conditions and excessive working hours, with an average working week of 67 hours in three factories under investigation by Chinese Labour Watch.
In 2014 they reported that another company called Catcher, employing 20,000 people, making iPhone and iPad parts was found to have a number of serious health and safety, environmental, and human rights violations: these included – Significant amounts of combustible aluminium-magnesium alloy shreddings on the floor and dust particles in the air, inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for handling toxic materials, such as metal cutting fluids, locked safety exits, a lack of safety training or fire drills for workers, dumping of industrial fluids and waste into groundwater and nearby rivers, as well as excessive hours for all workers.
Primark’s parent company is Associated British Foods, a heavy user of tax havens, using subsidiary companies in Guernsey, Jersey, Hong Kong, and Luxembourg.
Boots is a part of Alliance Boots, itself half of the conglomerate Walgreen Boots Alliance Inc, mired in controversy over use of conflict minerals and palm oil from unsustainable sources. MedAct has calculated that Boots avoided £1.21 billion in tax between 2007 and 2016, enough to fund a lot of health care; meanwhile it is still fighting to keep its pharmacists from joining a proper Union, and subjecting them to undue pressure to meet targets and low pay.
H&M opened its second Israel store in a village in Jerusalem that was brutally ethnically cleansed in the Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe of 1946. This year the Guardian reported that children as young as 14 in Myanmar factories were being employed to make clothes for H&M at below-minimum wages, the lowest wage just 13p an hour.
According to War on Want, Uniqlo “leaves a trail of serious labour violations wherever they go” – one recent example the closure of the PT Jaba Garmindo factory in Indonesia, leaving 4000 workers unemployed, and with four month unpaid wages.
Argos is now owned by Sainsburys, which itself is owned 25% by Qatar Holding LLC, which needs no further explication when it comes to migrant labour abuse that amounts to slavery. Sainsbury have no cotton sourcing policy, which means further acquiescence in child labour and slavery, and have a low ethical rating on the Ethical Consumer site for toxics in clothes and cosmetics. One of the Sainsbury dynasty gave a huge donation to the Tory party in the run-up to the last election, a crime against the NHS, against the sick and disabled across the country, and against all of us who want a society based on solidarity, not domination.
This huge French cosmetics company was founded by a Nazi sympathiser who funded and actively participated in a group responsible for numerous racist atrocities, including the firebombing of six synagogues. His daughter Liliane Bettencourt died this year, still owning one third of the company, with Nestle owning another large chunk; she was the richest woman in the world, notorious for tax avoidance and for leaving envelopes full of cash for Nicholas Sarkozy and other right-wing politicians to avoid limits on election spending. L’Oreal was fined in 2016 for price-fixing.
Hopefully you wouldn’t be thinking of buying any of your loved ones a household appliance for xmas anyway, but if you do, try to avoid further enriching the hypocritical xenophobic Brexiteer, James Dyson. Dyson was one of the most prominent UK business leaders to publicly support Brexit before the referendum, saying he would be voting to leave the European Union to avoid being “dominated and bullied by the Germans”. and since then saying that Britain leaving the EU Single Market would “liberate” the economy and allow Britain to strike its own trade deals around the world, recently commenting on the ongoing negotiations, “we should just walk away and they will come to us”. All this despite his having campaigned in 1998 for Britain to join the eurozone… and despite his having transferred most of his production workforce to Malaysia in 2002, helping the decline of UK manufacturing.