Clothing sweatshops

Posted: 6 January 2008

Sweatshops are used in developed and developing countries by some of the largest clothing companies, harming millions of workers. Campaigning organisations, trade unions and ethical business are shining a light on some of the worst excesses.

Sweatshops are used in developed and developing countries by some of the largest clothing companies, harming millions of workers.Campaigning organisations, trade unions and ethical business are shining a light on some of the worst excesses.

In the modern globalised economy the distance between consumer and producer has increased greatly. From the largest transnationalcompanies to the smallest cottage industries, a large proportion of the products bought and sold are built on the exploitation of those making them.

"Eighty-hour weeks for 5p an hour, forced overtime and potentially deadly working conditions are what many Bangladeshi garment workers face every day, courtesy of Primark, Asda and Tesco", says War on Want.

These budget retailers - which have all promised ethical treatment to suppliers - "are routinely buying from factories where workers toil inappalling conditions to meet the ever-stingier demands of retailers", it says.

No Sweat, the UK campaign against Sweatshops, says: "Workers work in sweatshops because the alternatives are even worse. The millions ofyoung workers who are trekking across China, from the hinterlands to the cities, calculate they will either rot in rural poverty or taketheir chance in a new factory.

"They find ultra-low-paid work, long hours, dangerous, non-unionised work. And they make vast profits for China's new bosses. Indonesia'ssweatshop workers take $60 per month not because they like the wage rate, but because the alternative is to join the tens of millions withno work at all in a country where there is not even a basic welfare state".

Behind such statistics lies real suffering. Mick Duncan from No Sweat outlines the case of four factories on an industrial park in Narayangong near Dhaka City where, in November 2003, workers called for the payment of outstanding wages and of the EID festival bonus.

When no agreement was reached unrest grew and a battle then began between workers and the police, in which one workers was killed and200 were injured, as well over a dozen policemen. Five workers are missing, feared dead by their colleagues.

Sweatshops are not just a problem for the developing nations. In the UK, KFAT, the Knitwear, Footwear, Apparel and Textiles Union iscampaigning to raise awareness of domestic sweatshops, which ignore minimum wage laws.

Alternatives to sweatshop clothes are now offered by Fairtrade clothes companies such as People Tree, and by ethical companies such asFootprint Clothing, whose T shirts are printed by hand using environmentally sensitive water-based links.

Related links:

War on Want

No Sweat