As we near the return to normality following the global pandemic, it's very easy to just be grateful that things are going back to normal. We have all suffered with loss in different forms and the pandemic has affected all of us personally. However, we must not be negligent of our responsibility to others who have also suffered loss. Whilst we have seen a positive reduction in our consumerism and materialism in our buying habits, this has meant that the large corporations we usually purchase from have subsequently seen a reduction in profits. One of the major industries which have felt the hit is the garment industry, however, it isn't the CEOs of your favorite brands who are feeling the pinch, it's the below minimum wage workers in Bangladesh who make your clothes.
Bangladesh is the world's second largest garment manufacturer, utilising over 4 million workers to produce clothing for mainly the United States and Europe. The chances are, if you look at the labels in your wardrobe, a large majority will say "MADE IN BANGLADESH". However, our OOTDs hide a dark truth of cruel and unsafe working conditions, many workers earning below minimum wage, unreasonable hours of work, child labour, the absence of contracts of work and the death of thousands. The impact of the unsafe working conditions have been highlighted by several factory fires in recent years, in which thousands of workers have died.
Now, with the global pandemic, these workers are suffering even more. Huge western clothing companies from which we as consumers purchase from regularly are refusing to pay the Bangladesh garment factories for over $3billion worth of goods which have already been shipped during the pandemic, pushing 4 million people into poverty. These are the same companies who vowed safer working conditions after the Rana Plaza fire in 2013 which killed 1000 people and injured 2500; most have not stayed true to their word.
The legal monthly minimum wage for garment workers in Bangladesh is $69USD, however, only 14% of workers have received this and now 63% of workers face the risk of becoming homeless. The #PayUp campaign has forced Adidas, Asos, H&M, NEXT and Zara to agree to pay up, proving that we as consumers can control the livelihoods of the people who make our clothes, but it is worth noting, these companies had left workers without pay for the last 3 months leaving many on the brink of starvation; are these companies with whom we wish to align ourselves? Moreover, large corporations owned by billionaires such as Arcadia who own Burton and Topshop, Primark, GAP, Urban Outfitters, Kendall and Kylie and FashionNova are still refusing to pay for the goods already shipped to them. Why do CEOs of these companies possess the arrogance to live in their mansions whilst refusing the Bangladesh workers the pay they are owed? Because they know we as consumers will continue purchasing from them.
So what can we do to change this? The first step is to make ourselves aware by researching the issue and then to spread our awareness through our various forms of social media using the hashtag #PayUp. Next, we must apply economic pressure by refusing to purchase from the brands who are still refusing to pay up and to align ourselves with brands who care for the workers who make their clothes. The best way of doing this is to only purchase clothing which has a 'FairWear' label in it (for more information on what FairWear is, please see the 'Social Awearness' page on our website). Finally, you can sign the petition below which will apply pressure to these brands with the more people who sign it.
Keep becoming aware, keep sharing awareness.
- Socially Awear