Oz firm recalls India-made footballs over child labour use

Updated: Sep 26, 2012, 19:08 PM IST

Melbourne: An Australian football company that had outsourced some of the production to an Indian firm has ended its contract, recalling nearly half a million footballs in the wake of allegations that child labour was used for the work in Jalandhar.

The Australian Football company Sherrin has decided to recall all 2011 and 2012 Auskick balls, after the father of a six-year-old Melbourne boy said his son had been pricked by a sewing needle found protruding from the skin of a Sherrin football.

The Australian company has also ended its ties with the Indian sub-contractor, confirming the reports that it was using child labourers in India.

The managing director of Sherrin, Chris Lambert, said about 9,000 balls were sent to the Indian sub-contractor this year to be stitched, but 450,000 will be recalled as a matter of "extreme caution".

Lambert was quoted by the AAP news agency as saying that the needle fault was linked to the sub-contractor who breached manufacturing standards when it outsourced, unauthorisedly, the stitching of balls to families in Jalandhar, Punjab.

"This is first time we have received evidence of the use of child labour. I was appalled to find this occurred. We`re shocked by this absolutely," Lambert said.

The controversy was triggered after the father made the claim about the football with a needle in it.

Lambert said another ball that did not reach a consumer was found with a needle in it.

The recall affected all Auskick balls in those years including those handed out at clinics and sold in shops.

According to an official statement by Sherrin, the step of ending the contract with the Indian sub-contractor was taken after the reports said that the footballs for the company were being hand-stitched by children as young as 10, for as little as 12 cents a ball, at one of its sub-contractors in Jalandhar.

"Sherrin is extremely grateful that this matter has been brought to the company`s attention as it considers the use of child labour in the production of its footballs totally abhorrent," it said, adding that it has taken the allegations seriously and within 24 hours it had ceased all dealings with its subcontractor in India.

"We have a zero tolerance policy regarding the use of underage workers, and we are appalled that one of our sub-contractors has used child labour in the stitching of our footballs," it added.

On Saturday, The Age had reported that Sherrin footballs were being hand-stitched by children as young as 10, for as little as 12 cents a ball. The children, almost all of them girls, were being pulled out of school to stitch balls, for up to 10 hours a day, seven days a week.