BBC blasted over Edinburgh Woollen Mill's workers claim

A high street clothes chain whose boss lives near Carlisle has hit back at a claim from the BBC that it has handed over foreign workers’ wages to the totalitarian regime in North Korea.

Bosses from Edinburgh Woollen Mill have described the allegation – aired in on the BBC's Newsnight show on Thursday – as inaccurate and “sensationalist”.
The company, whose chairman and chief executive is Philip Day, who lives in the Brampton area, has mounted a robust defence of its treatment of workers in Mongolia who make some of the cashmere jumpers which are sold in the firm’s 500 UK outlets.
The Newsnight report focused on jumpers which carry labels stating they are “Designed in Scotland,” but which are made in some cases by North Korean workers based in Mongolia.
The report claimed an official from the Mongolian company Eermel said the wages of the 80 North Koreans concerned are paid to the North Korean government, widely recognised as one of the most totalitarian and oppressive regimes in the world.
But Edinburgh Woollen Mill officials have been infuriated by the BBC's treatment of the story, saying it failed to point out that the firm told reporters that it had been given proof by the Mongolian factory that wages were paid not to North Korea but directly into workers’ bank accounts.
The firm said it cares for customers and staff and operates ethically.
Its statement said: “The North Korean workers are free to leave the factory and all of their wages are paid into personal bank accounts with the State Bank of Mongolia.
“We understand that they have debit cards and freely spend from their bank accounts. There is a Mongolian tax deduction of 10%. This is the only deduction made. We made the BBC aware that the factory owners had provided us with proof of the individual bank accounts of the North Korean workers and confirmation that the wages were paid by the factory to these accounts with the State Bank of Mongolia and not in any way to the North Korean government.
“There appears an edited statement on the Newsnight report from one of the Mongolian managers of the factory that ‘money is being sent from here.’
“We have specifically challenged the factory owner on this point and they have made a categorical denial that they pay the North Korean government or any agency of the North Korean government.
“The factory provides training to all of its staff. The North Koreans are also provided with accommodation and medical care. EWM understands its social and moral responsibility in relation to the treatment and working conditions of the workers in the factories where the EWM products are produced.”
The statement said Edinburgh Woollen Mill is committed to its corporate responsibilities in the UK and overseas and runs its business for a sustainable future. The labelling of the jumpers made in Mongolia is factually correct.
The statement adds: “We find it frustrating and disappointing that the BBC have chosen to sensationalise this story. We consider the reporting to be unfair, unbalanced and unrepresentative of the full truth. We are proud of our heritage and the fact that we continue to develop high quality products and design from the UK."


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