The manufacturing of bicycles is said to expose factory workers to strong chemical odours, excessive heat in welding areas, and unsafe machinery. However, the most worrying issue, claims issue 85 of Ethical Consumer magazine, is that of the use of child labour.
The report says that Bangladesh has one of the biggest numbers of child labourers in southern Asia. When Bangladesh introduced its controversial 'Child Labour Deterrence Act' in 1993, and thousands of children lost jobs in the garment industry, many found work in bicycle factories, claims Ethical Consumer.
The magazine also explores the conditions endured by employees of other bicycle factories in the Far East. The report expresses serious concern about workers' rights in the increasingly globalised bicycle industry.
The magazine is no fan of globalisation:
"[we] found that many smaller, formerly independent brands, such as GT, MONGOOSE, SCHWINN,
MOULTON and DAWES, have now been bought out by bigger companies."
Of course, Schwinn could hardly be called a 'smaller' brand and the erroneous inclusion of Moulton in Ethical Consumer's first statement was soon pointed out to the magazine.
Ethical Consumer's PR officer later retracted the statement: "We wish to make it clear that Moulton Cycles is an independent company and does not manufacture any goods in the Far East. A company representative states that Moulton Cycles is one of the last remaining independent bicycle manufacturers in the United Kingdom. We apologise sincerely for any distress or inconvenience caused by this error."
Ethical Consumer is an international magazine, based in the UK, and provides research on corporate social responsibility to help shoppers avoid brands and companies which are deemed unethical. This is not the first time the magazine has reported on the bicycle manufacturers of the world. In issue 68 (Dec00/Jan01) , the magazine's advice was to choose locally-made bicycles, a tough one for consumers then, and even tougher now.
Overall best buys were Pashley, Dawes and Brompton as these were labelled as manufactured in the UK in 2001. In issue 68, Universal scored well on workers' rights.
The details of the latest report will appear here soon...