The Human Cost of Fashion
In April over 1200 people died in Bangladesh when the Rana Plaza building collapsed. There has never been a clearer sign that all retailers need to dramatically raise their efforts to ensure that those making their clothes are doing so in safety and with dignity. (Going to Work – from the TUC)
Meanwhile, at home the Coalition government’s stated aim is a return to Victorian times – in their eyes a “golden age”, workers live in fear and gloom. Presumably History lessons at Eton did not include the realities of Victorian deprivation, and disease, and English lessons ignored Dickens.
“I don’t think there has been a better time in our history.” said Michael Gove Guardian Clearly Mr Gove’s history is quite different to mine, and to the vast majority of people living in the UK today. The Guardian article adds: Cameron had stated that his goal is to defund and deconstruct the welfare state, to “dismantle big government and build the big society in its place”. His ambition is radical in the purest sense of the word, for it is a conscious attempt to turn the clock back to the historical period for which he feels the greatest affinity: the 19th century.
Victorian Britain was a land of laissez-faire capitalism and self-reliance. Government regulation was minimal and welfare was left to charity. With little tax burden and low labour costs, industrialisation turned Britain into the workshop of the world and created a thriving middle class. The state helped promote and safeguard trade through a bullish foreign policy that created a consumer’s empire. In 1839, we even went to war with China to force the Middle Kingdom to lift its ban on imported British opium.
The Coalition has already removed workers’ rights to health safety in the UK workplaces, and abolished the agricultural workers wages board. (See 114 year workers’ rights scrapped by Coalition government) Then UKIP, clearly trading on fear of unemployment and poverty, do not speak for working people. They are no party, but a bundle of individuals with extreme, bizarre attitudes, for example, Geoffrey Bloom, who advocates that employers should not employ women of childbearing age. As so many industries have been shutdown since the Thatcher years, we can no longer make garments at home, we buy-in fashion produced cheaply and unethically, thousands of miles away.
In Bangladesh, cheap clothes come at human cost as health and safety of workers has no importance resulting in the deadly fire where hundreds died.
After huge public pressure over 80 clothing brands – including H+M, Zara, Next, Primark, New Look and Debenhams – have now signed up to a union-backed Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. It represents a big deal for Bangladeshi workers.
But whilst most UK retailers have stepped up to their responsibilities, there are a few major brands with factories in Bangladesh but who still refuse to sign. Prominent amongst these are 8 names you’ll probably know from your high street: River Island, Matalan, Bench, Bank Fashion, Peacocks, Jane Norman, Republic and Mexx.
We need to send a clear message to these 8 companies, telling them there are no excuses left for ignoring safety standards and workers rights in Bangladesh. We don’t want any more workers to risk death or injury in making our clothes.
Please take a few moments to send an email to these companies, urging them to sign up to the Accord today.
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