Following on from our post from a few weeks ago, another big warning sign for Sweatshop produced items are the brands that you are buying. We usually think very little about where our clothes come from and in recent years, more about the price and prestige certain brands give to us. But real price of most of the clothes we buy today is really the abuse of millions around the world.
In this post, we’ve collated 5 of the world’s trendiest fashion names that have been connected to some of the worst sweatshop situations. Click here to read more about the situations in Uniqlo, H&M, Adidas, Victoria’s Secret and Zara.
Is your favourite brand in that mix? Perhaps its time to #CutTheSweat and rethink your next purchase.
In our last post we talked a little bit about the factory collapse in Bangladesh. This week, we’re going to go a little more in depth into the country’s REALLY bad Sweatshop situation.
Wedged between India and Myanmar, Bangladesh’s population is just over 15.6 million. As a third world nation, Bangladesh is riddled with poverty and citizens struggle everyday to make a living from the very little education they receive.
The capital, Dhaka is home to almost 4000 garment factories where 3.5 million workers produce goods for export to the global market. The textiles industry generates 80% of the country’s export revenue and although this statistic should be celebrated, there is very little reason to do so. The reason lies in one word – Sweatshop.
Most of Bangladesh’s garment factories are very poorly regulated meaning workers are usually subjected to unsafe working environments and treatment. Little has improved over recent years despite mandatory factory registration and the nation is still sprawled with uncertified working spaces that put workers in both physical and psychological danger.
The Bangladeshi government issued a report filing 80% of all formal factories to be safe. The other 20%, however failed to comply with safety standards. This figure is 20% too many – and what about the factories that aren’t registered or surveyed. Millions of lives are at risk of physical danger every day, not to mention the psychological abuse that they are also subjected to.
In 2013 the sweatshop situation in Bangladesh became worldwide news after the collapse of an eight-storey factory space in Dhaka. At 8:57 am, 24th of April, the building gave way and collapsed with over 3122 workers inside. The disaster killed over 1100 people and injured over 2500. What’s most frustrating about this situation however is that it could all have been avoided.
The biggest and most obvious fault with the building, as it was later found, lies in its sketchy construction. First of all the site itself was not ideal for a building of its size with swampy grounds making it extremely dangerous. Second, construction materials used for the plaza were also of very poor quality and when paired with heavy vibrating machinery-running 24/7 – the question of safety should have been a priority. On top of this, the building also had two levels built illegal disregarding important safety standards and building weight restrictions.
If that was not bad enough, the Rana Plaza actually showed signs of stress in the lead up to its demise. On the day before the collapse, workers had actually refused to enter the work sight as they saw cracks appearing in the walls and roof of the building, however, they’re concerns fell to deaf ears as factory owners threatened them with loss of pay, unemployment and physical violence. If that does not make your blood boil – we don’t know what else does.
The result is the loss of innocent lives, half of which were women and children forced to work. On the other hand, a large percentage of those who survived now live with permanent injuries such as limb amputation and illnesses that leave them forever impaired for the workforce.
The Rana Plaza collapse stands as a monumental disaster in Bangladesh, but it is not the first and will not be the last. Since 2005, factory fires due to faulty electricals and smaller scale building collapses as seen an extra 1,800 killed and thousands more injured.
Although this disaster has seen attempts to improve the sweatshop safety situation such as the signing of the Fire and Building Safety Accord, we must still question whether this will be effective in the face of production demand and corruption. Due to this, it is important to rethink your purchases.
This topic will be one of the hardest to quantify in our efforts to minimise the consumption of sweatshop-produced goods. How do we know for sure our clothes are made in a sweatshop? And how do we know for sure that we’re not funding the cycle of unfair human labour?
It’s obscure, especially in our increasingly globalised world – but where your clothes are made plays a major role in its potential to be sweatshop-prone.
Sweatshops typically operate in third-word nations were large companies are able to take advantage of loose labour laws.
Bangladesh remains one of the world’s biggest manufacturer and exporter of textiles items, a large majority of which are fashion goods for large international brands. On the surface this may sound great for the nation’s economy, however, most, if not all of the manufacturing plants in the country are sweatshops. In an exceptional example of safety negligence, Bangladesh made worldwide headlines after the collapse of an eight-storey factory building in 2013. Killing over 1100 people and injuring another 2000, the Rana Plaza as it was known operated without a safety certificate housing a number of clothing manufacturing spaces. Despite this dire reminder for change, Bangladesh continues to be the word’s second largest textiles exporter.
Vietnam. Vietnam’s sweatshop situation should only be heard of in crime fiction. In some of the nation’s poorest provinces, trafficking gangs recruit children into sweatshop factories in Ho Chi Minh City where they are forced to work with the risk of being beaten or hit. Charity factory raids in 2012 exposed these horrific conditions, however, the cycle continues as authorities turn a blind eye to these human rights abuses.
Similar situations have been exposed in other developing countries such as Cambodia, China, Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey.
Pay attention to your clothing tags and look out for the “made in” label. Are the clothes you’re buying potentially made in Sweatshops? Think fair trade. Don’t shop the Sweat.
Check out the The Anti-Sweatshop League to see the world’s most sweatshop-prone areas according to vulnerable economies that heavily rely on sweatshop factory work.
Sweatshops – this issue has been in the media and our social background since the 1990’s, but what does it actually mean?
While there is no universal definition of sweatshop, there seems to be an unspoken understanding of what the term refers to. In the United States, the Department of Labour defines a sweatshop as a facility that violates two or more basic labour laws. In the face of reality however, this definition is rather weak in telling us exactly what a sweatshop is.
Here at Cut The Sweat, we like to look at a sweatshop as a manufacturing facility that is characterised by poor working conditions, where basic worker’s rights are exploited in fields of safety, treatment and pay. In terms of safety, such exploitation can manifest in working environments that are poorly ventilated, crammed and with very little safety regulations such as fire escapes and capacity limitations.
In the face of treatment, workers in sweatshops can endure long hours (upwards of 12 a day) with no overtime compensation and proper lunch breaks. Superiors can treat workers poorly by putting pressure on them to work faster, threatening job security as well as initiating physical and sexual advances. One of the more concrete violations however can be seen in the lack of compensation workers are paid in return for their work. It is not uncommon for labourers to receive wages averaging $2 a day. In extreme cases, they could even be paid as low as 10c an hour.
In the Australian workplace, such conditions may seem ludicrous. But it is a reality for millions of people in developing countries. What’s more upsetting is that the workers in these sweatshops are made up primarily of women and children as young as 5 years old, making child labour a very serious auxiliary problem. In fact, it is estimated, that 168 million children worldwide aged 5 – 14 have been recruited as child sweatshop workers.
Just think back to when you were 5, what were you doing? School had barely started and while you were painting and drawing in Kindergarten, some children are slaving away producing the clothes many big fashion chains are selling for major profits.
The lack of regulation overseas makes it extremely easy for large companies to take advantage of this cruel business model. Be aware of what’s happening and remember to be conscious the next time you are shopping!
Cut The Sweat is a social media campaign that aims to bring unfair sweatshop labour in the garment industry back into our attentions!
We spend so much money on clothes each year that Australia has become the highest spending nation in the world. According to Vogue Australia, we spend about $1430 per person each year just on clothes. Crazy! That’s $1430 that could have gone into our University tuitions, savings for a home deposit or our super fund, but no, being trendy is far more important that any of that. And how can we resist when some of our favourite brands are offering “exclusive sales” with “season must-haves going for more than 50% off?!” Ahhh, the bargain is too real. So we fall into this vicious cycle of buying clothes we don’t even need!
But besides our money flying straight out of our pockets and into the profit banks of the already rich and powerful, we are forgetting one very important by-product of our incessant spending: Labour violations.
It seems totally off-topic right? But wrong, its so on-topic! The true price of what we know now as fast fashion is often the rights and freedoms of over 180 million underprivileged women and children world-wide. In fact, we already know this. We all know women and children in developing countries are forced to work 14 hour days with no proper meal breaks in hot and stuffy warehouses to produce the clothes we wear today. But we’ve seemed to have become complacent. We just don’t care anymore. As long as we get that cute top for under $10, its happy days, right?
Again, wrong. This cycle needs to stop. We need to care just a little more about those who are suffering in sweatshop conditions overseas. What Cut The Sweat aims to do is to bring back the once robust anti-sweatshop movement and make young Australians rethink before they buy. Taking a small step to reduce the demand for fast fashion so fairness in worker’s rights can be achieved.
It’s time to #CutTheSweat. Think fair trade. Wear the right thing.