Human Rights – No More Fashion Victims.
The modern fashion industry has a horrendous reputation in the area of human rights. The industry was built on abusive labour since the Industrial Revolution and since the sweatshop scandals involving large companies like Nike and Gap were exposed in the 1990s the public has been aware of fashion’s dirty little secrets across the clothing supply chain. Nearly 1 billion people are employed by the fashion industry worldwide, the majority of whom live and work in dangerous, injust and bleak conditions.
Wages – grament factory workers often work long hours for extremely low pay. There should be a standard and acceptable Living Wage for all workers but this is difficult to achieve when dealing with the politics of developing countries and the financial demands of the supply chain.
Working hours and overtime – because of the huge demand for product from the West, factories are often completely overstretched and forced or unpaid overtime is often the norm.
Child labour – An extremely controversial issue, child labour is one of the more emotive problems of the garment production system.
The right to unionise – Because many garment factories are located in poor, developing countries such as Bangladesh and Cambodia a culture of trade unions is often non-existent and workers are forbidden from collective bargaining with authorities for fairer wages and working conditions.
Safety standards – Many garment factories are extremely unsafe with no emergency exits and overcrowding. As a result of this factory fires are frequent and have claimed the lived of thousands of garment workers over the past few decades. For workers involved in the dyeing process the risk of chemical poisoning is huge and other embellishment practices such as sandblasting denim pose massive health risks.
Outsourcing – Even if designers and companies keep a close eye on their supplier factories, because of the immense pressure to finish large orders in time factories often outsource to un-monitored facilities where even worse abuses can occur. This problem extends to home workers (often vulnerable women and children) who are hired for embellishments and finishing but are not subject to the rights of a permanently employed factory worker.
What’s the Solution?
It all seems rather bleak, doesn’t it? Some progress has been made over the past two or three decades in improving the lot of garment workers and many wonderful organisations now exist who work tirelessly towards ending human rights abuses in the fashion industry permanently.
For more information check out the Clean Clothes Campaign of which Re-dress is an active member.