1 Oct 2016

Protestors stage sit-down at H&M store opening

1:26 pm on 1 October 2016

Shoppers and protesters came face to face at the opening of the Swedish clothing giant H&M's first New Zealand store at Auckland's Sylvia Park this morning.

Protestors outside H&M as the Swedish firm opens its first NZ store.

Protestors outside H&M as the Swedish firm opens its first NZ store. Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

Hundreds of shoppers queued outside the glossy store, some since 5am, while a handful of protesters sat with signs and taped-over mouths.

The Swedish fashion retailer has been accused of using child labour and allowing unsafe factory conditions.

Protest organiser Julie Cleaver said she was there to ensure shoppers had enough information about the chain's unethical practices.

"I think that people are unaware how unethical this company is. They have sweatshops and they abuse children and adults by not paying them enough, by putting them in factories that aren't a good standard for them to work in."

Ms Cleaver said Sylvia Park security and H&M staff formed a wall and redirected foot traffic away from the protesters so customers would not see them.

Last month, the Washington-based Workers Rights Consortium said hundreds of thousands of workers making H&M garments in factories in Bangladesh were doing so in dangerous conditions.

"We're talking about severe safety hazards. For example, lack of fire doors and fire exits, lack of proper alarm systems, lack of sprinkler systems," said Workers Rights Consortium executive director Scott Nova.

"There's no question that workers' lives continue to be put at risk at many H&M factories and certainly consumers in New Zealand should be aware of that," he said.

But the problem is shared by many major clothing brands, and another charity organisation rated H&M's efforts to avoid worker exploitation higher than some local brands such as Glassons, Ezibuy and Pumpkin Patch.