The third anniversary of Rana Plaza, the deadliest tragedy in Bangladeshs’ garment industry, which claimed the lives of more than a thousand workers in is round the corner. The attention now turns to the millions of garment workers, surviving on poverty wages, who make the clothes we wear. What can we do to help these workers, out of which 80 per cent of whom are women. Certainly not to only buy vintage or second hand - as two fashionistas recently proposed on a BBC program. Garment workers desperately need to keep their jobs, so boycotting brands is not the way forward. They want to work. In many countries the garment industry is one of the few avenues to financial independence for women.
According to United Nations Guiding Principles, multinational companies are responsible for the working conditions at their suppliers. Yet many fashion brands have little control or little idea of how much workers are being paid, how long they are working or how safe the factories are, and insufficient will to do anything about it. Brands’ short lead times, last minute changes to production specifications, and a general lack of consideration of how their demands impact on workers, put an impossible burden on the women making our clothes. Any change in the global garment industry has to be systemic and enforceable. Acting alone will not bring about the necessary changes needed to improve the lives of garment workers.
There needs to be a critical mass of brands to wake up and realise that their supply chain operations are abusive and unsustainable.