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New Zealanders want slavery in products banned

Date: Wednesday 15 August - For immediate release

New Zealanders want slavery in products banned

It’s unanimous – New Zealanders don’t believe in slavery… although how are our cheap products made? and how would we know if we are supporting slavery? These are questions that have been raised over the last seven weeks since Trade Aid released its SLAVERY STILL EXISTS campaign and petition.

Based on the idea that New Zealanders should be able to control what arrives in New Zealand and is delivered to our racks and supermarket shelves, the public have overwhelmingly voted against products made using slave labour. The petition carrying tens of thousands of signatures is to be handed to Parliament on the day marked by the UN as the International Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. “When we explain that the type of labour this petition seeks to make illegal in the importation of products is bonded labour, forcing people to work against their will and child and adult trafficking, no-one has declined the opportunity to put their name on the petition” says communications manager for Trade Aid, Michelia Ward.

Recent research shows 27 million slaves exist across the continents, figures which do not even begin to measure the various forms of exploitative and sweatshop labour known to exist in goods production. Through the awareness raised from the Trade Aid campaign, consumers are beginning to realise that the products many of these 27 million slaves are involved in producing, may in fact be those products entering New Zealand’s own economy. Consumers are realising that they are no longer able to gain easy access to information surrounding the conditions products are produced in or even their real country of origin. The increasing global trading system and the ability of companies to move production wherever terms of trade are most favourable further worry those concerned about slavery in our products.

The United States declared slavery in product supply chains illegal back in 1983 and is now looking to enhance its anti-slavery stance with a bill currently before Congress which would make products made with sweatshop labour illegal. “New Zealand needs to play its part as a global citizen and make a statement to consumers and companies about the part we play in providing the demand for slaves to make cheap products” says Geoff White, Trade Aid’s General Manager.

The tens of thousands of signatures will be passed to Labour Party MP Dianne Yates who is Chair of the Foreign Affairs and Trade Select Committee, at a ceremony at parliament on August 23. Trade Aid has also received letters of support from across the parties including National, The Maori Party, The Greens and Gordon Copeland. The petition will be sent to a select committee process and Trade Aid hopes that the process will see a law banning slave made products by this time next year.

“Consumers are definitely becoming more aware. A chocolate bar which the manufacturer cannot guarantee to be slave-free no longer tastes as sweet and that is why we are seeing a rise in the number of schools and charities choosing to fundraise using fair trade chocolate. It creates the right image that they wish to foster in their communities” says Michelia, “Consumers are aware that chocolate manufacturers are in court in the United States over allegations of slavery and they want NZ chocolate manufacturers to answer their questions about slavery and to take responsibility for the sourcing of their products”.


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