Thursday, 28 April 2011

Guardian: Sweatshops are still supplying high street brands

The Guardian in its Poverty Matters blog today reveals the shocking results of a recent survey on sweated labour in a number of key developing nations:

More than a decade after sweatshop labour for top brands became a mainstream issue, the problem still seems endemic across the global clothing and footwear sector

Marks and Spencer's, Next, Ralph Lauren, DKNY, GAP, Converse, Banana Republic, Land's End, Levi's. And so the list of brands go on and on. What do they all have in common? According to a deeply depressing report (pdf) by the International Textile Garment and Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF), the factories in Asia contracted to make their products are still responsible for shocking working practices.
More than a decade after sweatshop labour for high street brands became a mainstream issue, and after plenty of companies have instituted monitoring of their supply chains, the problem still seems endemic right across the global clothing and footwear sector.

Many of the factories supplying the brands likely to dominate the Olympics in 2012, such as Adidas, Nike, Slazenger, Speedo and Puma, "are routinely breaking every rule in the book when it comes to labour rights", according to the ITGLWF.
The list of brands ultimately sourcing from the 83 factories surveyed in the report is so comprehensive, it seems to make a mockery of the whole idea that the high street has cleaned up its act.
Factories in three countries – the Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka – were surveyed, and not one of them paid a living wage to their combined 100,000-strong workforce. Many of them didn't even pay the legal minimum wage. What the report also makes clear is that this is a gender issue: 76% of the surveyed workforce are women. Globalised supply chains exploit predominantly female labour. It's an irony that probably escapes most of the women who do the bulk of high street shopping in the west. Women shopping for products made by other, underpaid, exploited, women.
What's more, the survey suggests that things are getting worse, not better. Do take the time to read the whole piece - and think about wherw you're spending your money on the High Street.

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