The news this week saw the collapse of a clothing factory in Bangladesh. Estimates say that there are possibly 300+ dead and up to 1000 injured. One woman gave birth to her son in the rubble. Today heavy lifting gear has finally arrived to try to reach many others still buried.
Is it YOUR fault and MY fault? Well, yes, actually. It is.
If we continue to demand cheap clothes, if we continue to buy sports clothing and some designer labels, we are responsible. So where do we buy clothes – do you really know where the clothes you are wearing right now actually come from? Sadly, most big clothing companies source from Third World countries.
The average worker in these factories does a 70+ hours a week shift and earns around 35 dollars a month. One T-Shirt can sell for more than that. Workers often have to hand their children over to other family members and just see them for a few hours a week. The premises where they work are not subjected to planning laws and are not built safely or inspected adequately.
On the other hand, what situation would these workers be in without the factories which employ them? It could be argued that without work, no matter how low-paid and in whatever poor conditions, their situation would be a whole lot worse.
At one time, we made clothes in the UK. They were generally of good quality and cost us more than the clothes we now buy from clothing chain stores on the High Street. But people in the UK did manufacturing jobs, didn’t struggle to find work, could support their families and felt a sense of belonging to an important industry. Then it became clear that as we had to pay people a minimum wage in the UK, it made much greater sense to have those clothes made abroad, where wages were miniscule, you could work people hard and unions didn’t kick up a fuss. It was the beginning of the exploitation we see today.
Are we responsible? Yes, I believe we are. As are governments and the very High Street stores who profit from those people whose bodies are currently entombed in that factory.