Saturday, July 20, 2013

“A good day for textile workers.”

That was one comment by an official as reported on the radio last week, after an agreement had been reached to improve working conditions for textile workers in countries such as Bangladesh and China. 70 companies have signed an agreement to guarantee that the entire production chain of their items be supervised, and that agreement was signed recently (sorry, site is in German). 
The signed companies are obliged to name their suppliers so that controls can begin, and even controlling firms will be supervised by an independent organization in the Netherlands. Within nine months several thousand textile prodution sites will be inspected to guarantee that fire safety standards are met, working conditions reach a certain level, etc. Just how thoroughly can an inspection of thousands of factories within only nine months be? Will this agreement actually change something? Or is it merely a drop in the ocean, to pacify consumers in the Western World who are temporarily upset right now, but who will willingy forget about these unpleasant incidents after hearing that now everything will be taken care of?
The repeated fatal incidents in Bangladesh have really gotten to me. I don’t usually buy clothes from any of the ‘major’ brands for which these factories were/are producing, but I am overwhelmed by the thought that the Western style of quick turnover fashion, and an unbearable ‘price awareness’ push prices down down down to such a degree that working conditions have to turn so precarious for the people in those countries that are being exploited by and for our way of life. First, textile industries in the so-called industrialized countries collapsed, because production was transferred to the developing countries. Then ever-increasing large companies keep pushing down prices, outsourcing production steps, and because the social problems are not right on our doorstep, we prefer not to notice them. And then something happens, more than a thousand people – mostly women – die.

Collapsed textile production site in Bangladesh -
picture taken from internet

And suddenly we are so upset that this could happen at all? Just how hypocriticcal can you actually get?

Two of the most interesting books I read last year were India Flint’s books  Second Skin and Eco Color. And I am currently reading a book that is very hard to read – Sustainable Fashion – because it gives you a lot of insight into the entire business and ecological effects of fibre production, shipment of materials from one part of the world to the other, and the overall effect that clothes production has on our planet. I can only read a few pages a time, and then I am so upset that I have to stop.
And yes, this does fit in with the above. For me, at least. I haven’t arrived at a conclusion for the problem. But I do think if we took more care about our clothes, didn’t change a wardrobe every few weeks, substituting one cheap T-Shirt through another, even cheaper one of a slightly lighter shade, and were willing to pay decent prices, a lot could be done for the people who are producing these garments. I am not at all convinced that globalization as it has been happening is really for the benefit of the people overall. Neither for those on the winner’s side, in the ‘Western World’, nor for those on the side where cheap labor is in abundance. This can’t be the kind of world we want to be living in, or is it?

There is still a lot that needs to be done to make sure that this agreement really marks a good day for textile workers in Bangladesh. And I think it is the responsibility of every single one of us.


  1. Warum sorry ???
    sorry, site is in German - warum entschuldigst Du Dich, daß die Seite in "Deutsch" ist ?

    Entschuldigen sich die Ami's, daß sie sich benehmen wie der "Große Bruder" ?

    LG Luitgard

  2. Hallo Luitgard - da dieser Blog auf Englisch geschrieben ist, und sich die Leserschaft aus einer internationalen Gemeinschaft rekrutiert, bin ich eigentlich bemüht, auch Links in einer weiterreichend international verständlichen Sprache anzubieten. Ich finde es zwar auch nicht toll, was von Seiten des Großen Bruders läuft, das heißt ja aber nicht, dass ich auf grundlegende Werte der Höflichkeit verzichten müsste, und da gehört dieses 'sorry' für mich dazu.
    Außerdem wissen wir ja noch lange nicht, inwieweit nicht doch "unsere" Leute an dem ganzen Ausspähen (zumindest durch Wissen) beteiligt waren. Ich rechne da noch mit einigen "Ent-Schuld-igungen"

  3. Hallo Uta,

    ich bin mir sehr sicher, daß unsere "Oberen/Oberin" davon wußten! Die "Hintermannschaft" auf jeden Fall.

    Und ich bin mir auch sicher, daß von "Ent-SCHULDigungen" nichts kommen wird.

    Ich grüße Dich - Luitgard