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Protests could target M&S after supplier is criticised in Morocco

Marks & Spencer could face store protests later this month after accusations of poor working practices at one of its major suppliers.

Dewhirst, which supplies womenswear to the chain, is in dispute with a Moroccan trade union over pay and anti-union activity. The UK supplier shifted manufacturing from the UK to Tangier in 2002.

However, UK union GMB, which was involved in the suppliers' move overseas, has now stepped in to raise awareness of M&S's involvement. As a result, campaign groups Labour Behind the Label and No Sweat are also taking up the cause.

A spokesman for Labour Behind the Label said that although it favoured a collaborative approach with M&S, it would look at staging store protests if the retailer failed to take the ongoing dispute seriously.

An M&S spokeswoman said that its staff regularly visited the Dewhirst site and further investigations as a result of the allegations had found no evidence of poor practices. She added that one of its ethical trading managers would visit Morocco next week and it was extending the invitation to ethical trade experts.

"We take matters such as this very seriously," she said. "We would not work with a supplier if we considered any serious labour standard issues, such as those being claimed, were found in a factory."

But the GMB claimed that the workers who walked out on strike had simply been replaced, meaning Dewhirst had taken their action as resignations. "M&S has been parading itself as an ethical business in the newspapers recently, but this will not go away," said a GMB spokesman.

Dewhirst said it had made repeated offers to resolve the dispute with the Moroccan union, but all efforts had been rejected.

- Value fashion chain MK One has issued ethical standards guidelines to all its suppliers after it was found to have used a supplier that sourced from Burma. Chief executive Dominic Galvin said MK One had been unaware of the origin of the garments and conducted an immediate inquiry, before withdrawing the range.

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