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James Gilbert In Child Labour Probe

A national newspaper has said there are further revelations to come after a story yesterday alleging that child labour is employed by a well-known Midlands company.

The Sunday Mirror claims that Rugby-based James Gilbert Ltd, a major manufacturer of rugby balls, has its products made in India by children who are as young as ten and paid as little as ten pence to forty pence a day.

However, the paper did confirm that when Gilbert’s managing director Rodney Webb was told of their finding he was "genuinely shocked" and promised to conduct a proper investigation.

The article also details dangerous working conditions in the factories and editor Colin Myler believes that something must be done about the situation quickly.

He said:

"Our reporter went into the factories used and he also went in the sweat shops.

"There is something rather ironic in this because some of the other Gilbert balls, not the ones that are being manufactured for the World Cup, have a UNICEF stamp and the words '10% of the wholesale proceeds of this product will go to UNICEF’s work for the eradication of child labour in India'.

"So on the one hand you have a company which is obviously well aware through its relationship with UNICEF about the way that children are exploited in India, and this company is making people aware of it and doing something about it.

"What struck me however was that in the course of 16 years surely you would have had a representative out there to make sure that children were not exploited in that way.

"We were out there for less than a week and yet Gilbert’s have had this business relationship for 16 years.

"We have more information and we will be following this up next week."

The article detailed the fact that the balls are manufactured in three stages, the preparing of the inner-tube, the cutting of the leather, and then the stitching – and it is this last stage which allegedly uses child labour.

Myler said:

"The products are transported to Savvy International factory which is owned by a man called Ashok Verma, who is Gilbert’s main man in India and he subcontracts some of the work out to the sweat shops.

"This is where the child labour is employed with around 600 stitchers who manufacture 10,000 balls a day."

Rodney Webb managing director of Gilbert’s was today unavailable for comment.

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CWN / Business / A-Z / James Gilbert / 4 Oct 99

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