The Unacceptable Human Cost of Fashion – Take Action Now

Quote

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 IslandMatalanBenchBank FashionPeacocksJane NormanRepublic 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.

Take Action !

Write to the 8 brands here now!

The Appalling Protection of UK Workers and the Red Tape Myth

Quote

Protecting the Workers

From @Earwiggle

Think Left’s article ( 114 year workers’ rights scrapped by coalition government) reveals how long standing workers’ rights are being eroded by the Coalition government. With legal aid cut, high unemployment and rising costs of living, everyone can see people struggling. How many are aware of how poor workers’ rights and protection in the UK really are?

protection for permanant workers

It is no doubt politics which preys on disaster politics and fear. Fear and lies. The graph shows that protection of permanent working staff in the UK is appalling. The effect of Thatcher’s attack on trade the unions leading to decreased union membership can be seen in perspective. The power of money over the individual struggling alone is immense. One can see how struggling to feed one’s family puts worker against worker, and provide an opportunity for right wing parties such as UKIP to move in on the scene.

The erroneous line, “we’re all in it together”, and Cameron’s patronising Keep Calm Dear , while criticised and ridiculed are tolerated by those who believe austerity is necessary, and the myth of the need to cut structural deficit though several economists argue otherwise.

The Red Tape Myth

Richard Exell and Alex Hern’s New Statesman article exposes the idea that ‘red-tape’ will hold back the economy as a myth. Laws which protect workers’ safety and equality are overturned by the Coaltion. The Mythbusters Research from NEF (New Economics Foundation) and Tax Justice Network

Myth-busting:

Deregulation is the path to economic growth

Neoliberal thinkers have attempted to take advantage of the downturn to push existing policies even further. One of the best examples is how ‘red tape’ has been blamed for delaying economic recovery. In this Mythbuster, Richard Exell from the Trades Union Congress and Alex Hern from the New Statesman explain how the idea that regulation is the problem is simplistic, overstated, and misapplied. See the full research report here

The argument goes like this: Our wealth creators are chomping at the bit to hire more people, produce more output, and sell more stuff. The only problem is that nasty government regulations are stopping them from doing it. Scrap those regulations, and bust turns to boom!

It’s an appealing argument to many in the Conservative party, because it has the side effect of shifting the blame for slow growth from macroeconomic policies—particularly the historic failure of austerity. It also lets Tories express sympathy with the aims of policies like a minimum wage, health and safety regulations, or employment protections, without actually committing to keep them.

Their case is most persuasive when attacking the idea that labour regulations in the UK mean business is lost to countries overseas with less red-tape. Businesses would be hard pressed to find any countries with less protection for workers than the UK.

OECD

What is clear, yet again is the incredible incompetence and short-sightedness of the Coalition government, who see working people and working practices as obstacles in their quest for wealth. Their ludicrous idea of us-and-them, shows they are still blind to the truth that it is the labour, skills and knowledge of people which creates growth and development. It is not the instantly created and just-as-instantly destroyed bankers’ money which permits growth. It is cooperation with all members of our society which leads to mutual benefit for all. Governments exist to manage on our behalf; it seems that the current government has no idea about the real world.

References and Further Reading:

One Data Protection rule for them, and another for us.

 

Yesterday for me was just a (*collective noun) of paradoxes.

Last week, the puppy chewed up my daughter’s phone.  She ordered a new one on line but was not in when UKmail tried to deliver it.  She went to their website but there was no option to arrange a re-delivery date.  Instead, there was a phone number.  She doesn’t have a phone because the dog ate it.  So she facebooked me the consignment number and asked me to contact UKmail for her.  I duly phoned and waited the prerequisite 25 minutes for an operator (obviously they explained that they were experiencing high traffic volume – there are 2.6m people looking for a job but doubtless my phone call, contributed to their profit margin)

However, in spite of having the consignment number and only wanting to tell them to deliver it on Monday morning, I was not allowed to say anything because of ‘data protection’!

My daughter would have to phone… but my daughter hasn’t got a phone….  UKmail have her phone.  Catch 22 and left me wondering how many fraudulent phone calls they get from people with the consignment details?

At the same time, the Guardian revealed that all my emails, facebook messages, telephone conversations etc have been picked up by the US and passed on to GCHQ…  In fact, they already know the details of my history with UKmail and my daughter’s phonelessness.

Data protection?

Meanwhile, another daughter had a migraine and Ibuprofen was not working.  We had also run out of soluble paracetamol and codeine, which I need for me, but makes my daughter vomit.

So I went to the local chemists, knowing that I’d also have to drive to another one, 4 miles away, because of not being allowed to buy more than 32 tablets containing paracetamol…. Health and Safety legislation.

However, when I tried to buy one of the various over-the-counter migraine tablets that I’ve bought in the past, I found that all the local pharmacists now require a consent form to be filled in first … and you guessed it.  My daughter had to fill it in.  But my daughter couldn’t go and fill in the form because she had a migraine…..

Presumably, the consent form is to prevent my daughter from suing the pharmacist … However, with the removal of legal aid, they don’t really need to be so worried.

I couldn’t help but wonder where were the consent forms applying to activities of the financial sector … let alone to prevent fracking?  Then I remembered – fracking was one of the major reasons why the Tories are restricting Judicial Review.

Furthermore,  when it comes to Health and Safety,  why aren’t they prosecuting this Tory/LD government for doing nothing to regulate the banks or stop us heading for another financial crash?

Where is Health and Safety when it comes to removing peoples’ benefits; forcing people out of their jobs and homes?  What about the massive rise in food banks; the cutting back of social care; or the suggestion that one child minder could safely look after 6 two year olds… ?  I could go on.

But to return to my paradoxical day.

When I told my eldest daughter about my frustrations, she said:

“You should have said that the phone/tablets were for you.”

And of course, that is exactly what this government does.  It lies!

They know that we do not want the NHS privatized so they say that its safe in their hands and is not being sold off.  They pledge not to raise tuition fees.  They say that the cuts are necessary because of the last Labour government.  They say that its critical that the deficit and the debt must be brought down whilst doing the opposite.  They say that people on benefits or unemployed are skivers.  They say that the economy is recovering……

But more pertinently, in the current context… the Tories are lying about the need to introduce a ‘Snooper’s bill’.

Why do they need a ‘Snooper’s bill’?  The US are already doing the ‘snooping’ for them!  

In fact, I was puzzled at the time by the US and the UK voting against the International Telecommunications Union bill to restrict the internet in Dubai last December… not least because of ‘British government’s current draft communications bill which would produce a system of blanket collection and retention of all online data.’

 

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a UN organisation that counts 193 countries as its members, aims to add the internet to its existing regulatory roles…. Its goal is to establish government-led “international norms and rules standardising the behaviour of countries concerning information and cyberspace”

The most subversive proposal is the plan to force internet provider companies to monitor data and restrict their services to uses deemed ‘rational’ by the government of that country.’

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said “These decisions will have a huge impact on freedoms and the everyday use of the internet [that] people take for granted and most people would be shocked to know that something so major could be happening amongst such secrecy.” 

Tribune Magazine November16-29 2012 p.1

 

Furthermore… one of the worrying aspects of the leaks from TPP documents suggests that a version of SOPA could be introduced by the backdoor, limiting internet freedom and internet privacy rights.  It is reasonable to assume that similar attempts will be made to include these in the US-EU Free Trade Agreement that is being rushed through in secret negotiations for 2014.

So why did the US and UK vote against the ITU bill limiting internet freedom?

It may be that the US and UK votes were another ‘lie’, a ‘blind’ for public consumption, thus maintaining the mythology of free speech and democracy… and/or it may be that the US did not want their freedom to snoop restricted by foreign governments.  Whatever, the explanation, it is clear that there has been considerable double-speak and a massive invasion of personal privacy.  Those who say that they have nothing to hide in being ‘snooped’ upon should think twice about how wise it is to trust governments who do not in any sense ‘play fair’ or transparently.

Furthermore, is it wise to trust a government that constrains ordinary commonsense behaviour by the public, in the name of Data protection/Health and Safety legislation but totally ignores the risks to, and the rights of that population in favour of protecting the freedom of the corporations, finance and the super-rich?  Capitalism has always had to find a balance between the accumulation of wealth for the few and the danger of precipitating riots and revolt from the masses.  To that end, intrusive surveillance, curtailing access to information, and over-controlling the behaviour of the mass population makes total sense.

There is one set of rules for them and another for us.

Pathetically, I can only hope that the Guardian revelations have given Obama and the Tory/LDs a migraine .. and that they have as much trouble as I did to get painkillers.

*Suggestions for a collective noun for paradoxes from all SORTSA LINGUISTIC EXPERIMENT:

  1. an enigma of paradoxes  
  2. contradiction of paradoxes

Now I wonder what collective noun I could find for the coalition government….

Access to UK Justice means Stopping Legal Aid ‘Reform’

Cameron attacks our hard-won ‘Right to Challenge’

Are we already in the post-democratic era?

Next Month’s International Threat to control the Internet – Act Now!

114 year Workers Rights Scrapped by Coalition Government.

Quote

 114 year Workers’ Rights Scrapped  by Coalition Government.

From @Earwiggle

So, it’s official – workers today have less entitlement to be safe at work than those in Victorian Times. That the Government supports those who work and strive to support families is a nonsense. Consistently, we witness the Coalition continuously and callously attack ordinary working people.  David Cameron rejoices at a return to the Victorian “Golden Age”. (1)

Child%20Labor

I recall a death certificate which I acquired from genealogical research. Metal polishing in Birmingham’s jewellery quarter in Victorian Times meant working with toxic metals, and one woman met her death when her crinoline became trapped in a lathe. These workers lived in poverty  in insanitary back-to-back-housing, in poor health due to poor diet. Elsewhere, children were working in cotton mills and on the land, with little or no education and with dangerous machinery. I had imagined this was history – not the future.

The Institute for Employment Rights reports:

Victorian Era Workers’ Rights Scrapped By Coalition:

Last week, on the 25th April 2013, the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill was granted royal assent, bringing into law the government’s widely unpopular proposals to scrap employers’ 114-year-old liability for their staff’s health and safety in the workplace.

This means that the burden of proof now falls on the employee to show that the employer had been negligent in their duties towards them, rather than the employer being asked to prove they were following regulations correctly, as has been the case since the Victorian era. This is likely to result in injured workers, and the families of the deceased, being unable to claim compensation for their losses due to accidents at the workplace, seeing as the evidence needed to prove negligence is held by the employer rather than the employee – and employers guilty of negligence are unlikely to willingly hand over the proof. (2)

The  Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill ERRB was amended at the very last minute  by the government, by insertion of 61 clause which will mean that a worker can be injured due to an employer’s breach of a statutory duty within health and safety at work regulations but the worker will be prevented from enforcing that breach.

At present a civil claim for personal injury can be brought for negligence and/or breach of statutory duty. A breach of statutory duty would occur, for instance, if an employer failed to comply with regulations under the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA), such as failure to guard a machine or keep a gangway clear of obstructions. (3)

Employers will no longer be liable in the civil courts for the criminal offence of a breach of the HSWA regulations. In every case, rather than be able to rely on the breach of the regulations, the worker will have to prove the employer was negligent.

With the removal of legal aid, non unionised workers would be unable to challenge. Workers vulnerability to exploitative employers has been set back more than a century. Rights achieved by solidarity of working people by the Labour Movement have been ripped away. Labour opposed the ERRB Bill and must ensure a reversal when returned to government.

The ERRB motion was passed before some voters went to the polls in Local Elections last week , and without mention on the BBC and little in mainstream news.

On 16th April the government abolished the Agricultural Workers Wages Board, (AWWB) without even a debate (4)  in the Commons. This will result in poverty and could lead to exploitation of children.

Next – the minimum wage is to be targeted. Introduced by the Labour Party, this lifted many from abject poverty.  The Telegraph (5) reports that the minimum wage is at risk, and   it could be frozen, or cut. This will put millions at risk of poverty. We are living in a divided society, where women and children are being hit hardest. People are going into debt to eat and we are seeing a resurgence of scurvy. How can this be even contemplated?

Labour List on Minimum Wage Cut

Before it was introduced millions were working for terrifyingly small salaries as low as £1 an hour. The minimum wage made work pay and released millions from the most abject poverty. Despite the scare-mongering from the right, it didn’t cost jobs. It set a legal floor below which we as a society said we would not allow – or force – people to go.  (6)

We are seeing so many of Labour’s achievements in government being rolled back, the NHS, welfare state, free school meals and improved access to education.  Add to that Legal Aid, the Open University, and women’s rights. In recent years, Surestart and the Minimum Wage. Equality for Women is threatened as the Government attacks Maternity Rights, and ChildCare Support. The Tories say they want “work to pay” … but it’s certainly  not the workers who will benefit, it’s employers and big business.

The Conservative Party have not won a General Election in 21 years , yet the Liberal Democrats continue to keep this extreme, reactionary government in power, allowing  total destruction of the Welfare State, stripping assets built and earned by working people and actively pursue policies which erode Workers’ Rights. Will Liberal Democrats look to their consciences and walk?

REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING

  1. Guardian: Conservative Nostalgia for Victorian Times is Dangerous
  2. Employment Rights: Victorian Era Workers’ Rights Scrapped By Coalition:
  3. RMT -Transport  Union: Return of the Dark Satanic Mills: The End of Civil Liability in Health and Safety
  4. MPs abolish Farm Wages Board  Farmers Weekly
  5. Telegraph: Minimum Wage could be Frozen or Cut, Government Suggests
  6. Labour List: They’re coming after the Minimum Wage – Get Angry!
  7. Maternity Action : Policy and Research
  8. Think Left: Remember the Real Divide – it is Rich and Poor
  9. GMB: Government taking Workforce back to Victorian Times
  10. Morning Star: UKIP MEP blasted after Maternity Rights Rant
  11. Guardian: One is Seven Women made Redundant after Maternity Leave
  12. BBC: Many are borrowing for food