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‘Please help us’: Note in Tesco Christmas card alleges forced labour, report says – Global News

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The U.K.-based grocery chain Tesco said it halted production at a factory in China on Sunday after a British newspaper reported the factory used forced labour to produce charity Christmas cards for the supermarket.

Tesco said it also launched an investigation of the Chinese supplier it hired to make the holiday cards, Zheijiang Yunguang Printing, after the Sunday Times raised questions about the factory’s labour practices.

The newspaper said the potentially problematic province of the cards came to light when a 6-year-old girl in south London found a card in her box already had a message written inside.


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It read: “We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qinqpu prison China forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organization.”

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The writer asked whoever received the note to contact Peter Humphrey, a former British journalist who was detained in China while working as a corporate investigator and spent time at the same Shanghai prison.

Florence Widdicombe, 6, poses with a Tesco Christmas card from the same pack as a card she found containing a message from a Chinese prisoner, in London, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019.

Florence Widdicombe, 6, poses with a Tesco Christmas card from the same pack as a card she found containing a message from a Chinese prisoner, in London, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019.


(Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)

The London girl’s father, Ben Widdicombe, said Sunday they at first thought the message was a “prank.”

“On reflection, we realized it was actually potentially quite a serious thing,” Widdicombe said. “So I felt very shocked, but also a responsibility to pass it on to Peter Humphrey as the author asked me to do.”


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He said the message was eye opening: “It hits home there are injustices in the world and difficult situations that we know about and read about each and every day.”

Widdicombe said finding the message shortly before Christmas was poignant and that he told his daughter, Florence, what it might mean.

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2:00
Toronto rally calls on feds to address human rights violations in China


Toronto rally calls on feds to address human rights violations in China

“We explained that the person who wrote it was a prisoner in China and that the person felt the prison guards were being mean, making them do work, they felt really sad,” the father said.

Humphrey told the BBC he thinks he knows who wrote the message. He said he won’t identify the person for fear the inmate would face retribution.


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Humphrey said he was “pretty sure” it was put inside the card by a group of prisoners as a collective request for help.

Tesco said it was “shocked” by the discovery and would never allow prison labour in its supply chain.

The company says it donates 300,000 pounds ($390,000) annually to the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK from the sale of its Christmas cards.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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Unifor approves $1 billion General Motors deal to build electric vans in Ontario – Yahoo Canada Finance

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CBC

Teachers’ Federation does not support schools staying open during red phase, district does

The New Brunswick Teachers’ Federation says it does not support keeping schools open during red phase, a change that took both teachers and district officials by surprise. The federation, which represents both anglophone and francophone teachers, said the province did not consult them before changing the rules. “This government’s decision was communicated to us only a few minutes before today’s press conference,” said the federation in a letter released yesterday. Minister of Education Dominic Cardy and Dr, Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, announced Sunday 36 new cases of COVID-19, a new single-day record. The cases include 24 in the Edmundston and Grand Falls region, or Zone 4, which is moving to the red phase. At the same news conference, Cardy said schools in Zone 4 will stay open under new phase-red guidelines. The guidelines previously said if a zone moved to the red phase, all non-essential businesses and schools must close. Cardy said students will be safe at school, even during phase red. The federation said it plans to address its concerns with Cardy, including asking how suddenly changing the rules could help “foster a climate of stability,” and how students, teachers and staff will be kept safe. Francophone North-West School District superintendent Luc Caron held a media conference Monday afternoon supporting the government’s decision. “[If] schools are open that means schools are safe and that is Public Health’s message that they’re sending out,” he said. “We will continue to do our best to give the kids the best education, best quality of service possible.” Caron said the new rules came as a surprise to the district as well. He said staff have been working on red-phase plans for months, but had to pivot when they learned that they will remain open in red. Caron said if parents want to keep their kids at home because they don’t feel safe, they are free to do that. But if they do, “they become the teacher.” He said he hopes parents will understand the district is keeping the students and staff safe by following Public Health guidelines of cleaning and masking. He said the district will step up active screening of school personnel, and screen employees on a daily basis. Extracurricular activities will be cancelled, and if employees or students experience only one symptom they are asked to stay home and get tested, he said. “We encourage our parents to take a look on our health measures in place and I hope they realize that means we are strict and our measures are safe,” he said. “We would invite them to bring back their kids to school.”

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GM investing $800M to build BrightDrop electric van in Canada plant – Fox Business

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General Motors has earmarked approximately $800 million to convert its CAMI Assembly plant in Ontario, Canada, into an electric vehicle manufacturing facility.

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The factory, which currently produces the Chevrolet Equinox, will begin building electric vans for GM’s new BrightDrop division by the end of 2021, with the full transformation to electric vehicles scheduled for completion within two years.

GM also builds the Equinox in Mexico for U.S. sale, but has not announced its plans for making up for the lost Canadian production capacity.

GM last week announced the formation of the BrightDrop brand during a CES presentation when it revealed the purpose-built EV600 commercial van. The EV600 will use the automaker’s new Ultium electric vehicle platform and be followed by other models.

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FedEx was announced as the first customer for the EV600, which will have a range of 250 miles per charge and become widely available in 2022 at a yet to be announced price.

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CAMI is the fourth factory being converted electric vehicle production that GM has announced in recent weeks, following its Spring Hill. Tenn., Orion Township, Mich., and Detroit-Hamtramck facilities, the last of which has been renamed Factory ZERO.

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Couche-Tard CEO would love second shot at Carrefour deal – theglobeandmail.com

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A customer pushes her shopping trolley in front of a Carrefour Hypermarket store in Saint-Herblain near Nantes, France on Jan. 15, 2021.

STEPHANE MAHE/Reuters

Alimentation Couche-Tard (ATD-B-T) (ATD-A-T) would revive its $20 billion bid for France’s Carrefour (CRRFY) if the Canadian convenience store operator saw a change in the French government’s stance on the proposed deal, its chief executive said on Monday.

Couche-Tard dropped its surprise bid for the European retailer over the weekend after the plan ran into opposition from the French government. Some French politicians said the issue was a matter of national food safety.

“We’d love to do the transaction …. if we got signals that the environment could change or would change from the French government or other key stakeholders,” Brian Hannasch told an analyst call.

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News of the approach from Couche-Tard, which operates convenience outlets and fuel stations, broke only last week but unravelled swiftly in the face of opposition from French politicians including finance minister Bruno Le Maire.

With a deal effectively blocked, the companies said they had decided instead to examine opportunities for sharing practices on fuel purchases, partnering on private labels and distribution in overlapping networks.

Shares in Carrefour slumped more than 6% in Paris to 15.55 euros on Monday afternoon as the prospect of the 20 euro per share offer evaporated, for now at least. Couche-Tard shares rose 3.4%.

“In terms of politics, I think we went into this with eyes wide open knowing that this was a risk, and I certainly do believe that the pandemic has heightened the food security issue, particularly in France,” Hannasch said.

“And so whether that changes over time, it’s hard to say.”

‘TRUE BARRIER’

In a note to clients on Monday, Bryan, Garnier & Co retail analyst Clément Genelot blamed France’s 2022 presidential elections as the “true barrier to the deal,” amid fears that the sale of the country’s leading private employer could strengthen far-right opposition to incumbent Emmanuel Macron.

Carrefour employs 105,000 people in France and runs around 8,000 convenience stores as well as its traditional hypermarkets and supermarkets.

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One top ten Couche-Tard shareholder, already skeptical about the merits of a tie-up with a grocer, said the company would face questions for moving away from its core business.

“I think in the interim there will continue to be some form of overhang or discount I think applied to the equity just because there will be that concern that the management team has started to get outside what’s considered their area of competence,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Analysts at investment bank Citi said there was still a chance Carrefour and Couche-Tard could revive talks at a later date, while the possibility remained for Carrefour and domestic rival Casino to examine a merger deal.

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