Having strayed into the mundane world of business journalism, the misfit gets a high from politics, cinema, theatre and street food, especially in the bylanes of Old Delhi.

Aditi Nigam

Blood Garments!

| Updated on March 09, 2018 Published on May 06, 2013

So far, one had heard about ‘blood diamonds’ mined in Africa. Now, Asia is emerging as the hub for branded ‘blood garments’, made in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

At last count, over 540 workers in Bangladesh, working with their sweat and labour to clothe the crème de la crème of Western society, had been crushed under the debris of the eight-storey Rana Plaza building, which collapsed last month. The toll may mount, as many are still missing, including children.

This is not the first case of ‘industrial slaughter’ in Bangladesh, where over 1,000 Garment workers have died since 2005 in factory fires and other cases of industrial neglect.

Bangladesh has 3.5-4 million workers in some 4,500 garment factories that cater to top apparel brands and retailers such as Primark, Mango, Matalan, Disney, Wal-Mart, Tommy Hilfiger, Gap, Calvin Klein, H&M etc. Branded garments account for over 80 per cent of Bangladesh’s exports.

There are a zillion studies that have pointed time and again to the appalling working conditions and poor wages of these garment workers. Some get as low as $38 a month, leading even Pope Francis to term them as ‘slave labour’.

What next? The Government will offer compensation and Western garment brands and retailers will splurge on PR to distance themselves from the ‘unscrupulous’ local factory owner, and will pay lip service to the cause of ‘fair trade’.

But, do these big companies want the world to believe that all this while they were unaware of the appalling conditions in which these garments were being made? Isn’t it is these very Western big brands that fostered this low-wage, no-rights manufacturing model on the developing world?

This time round, however, these companies may find it difficult to wipe the ‘damned spots’ of workers’ blood from their hands.

For, in a world where capital floats freely across geographical boundaries, labour, too, is fast realising the need to unite across boundaries. Labour and rights organisations across the world have been putting pressure on global brands as well as Governments of countries that agree to supply cheap labour to these brands. Protests and petitions are doing the rounds demanding a “stop to the race to the bottom in supplying cheap means of production to international brands” , better wages, decent working condition and right to association.

The song from the classic film, Les Miserables, seems to be ringing true. The time has come for the rich and mighty to “look down” as “it’s hot as hell below”!

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Published on May 06, 2013
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