Working conditions in the fashion industry
For decades we have known this: most of our clothes are manufactured in countries where the rights of workers are restricted or inexistent. In reality, manufacturing sites are changing locations on a regular basis, searching for ever cheaper costs of labour.
We frequently hear business owners say that “for these workers, it’s better than nothing,” “at least we’re giving them a job,” and they’re right to some degree. But it’s also fair to suggest that they’re manipulating suffering and taking advantage of poor people who have no choice but to work for any pay, under any working conditions. The word “slave labour” is used also by the European Parliament to describe the actual working conditions of garment workers in Asia.
We know that if the working conditions in one country change, the businesses can simply switch to another. We assume that if customers do not press for a reform, we can not expect anything from the business world or the governments.
Wages in the fashion industry
Many fashion companies promise their consumers that “at least the minimum legal wage” is paid to the employees who made their clothing But what does that exactly mean?
First of all, that means that other brands don’t even pay the legal minimum wage!
Moreover, the minimum wage in most manufacturing countries (China, Bangladesh, India …) is about half and a fifth of the living wage. A living wage is a bare minimum needed by a family to meet its basic needs (food, rent, health care, education, etc.). In short, these brands pride themselves on paying their workers 5 times less than an individual actually does need to live with dignity…
Working hours in the fashion industry
Jobs working in garments are frequently expected to work 14 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. They can work until 2 or 3 am during the peak season to meet the deadline for the fashion brand. Their minimum salaries are so poor that they can not refuse to take overtime-apart from the fact that if they refused to work overtime, they would be fired. Overtime is in some cases not even charged at all.
Health and safety conditions in the fashion industry
The 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza, killing 1134 garment workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh, has exposed to the world the unfair working conditions of the entire fashion industry.
Employees typically work in dangerous buildings without ventilation, breathing in hazardous chemicals, inhaling fiber dust, or blasted sand. Accidents, explosions, accidents, and illnesses on textiles are very common production sites.
Besides that, textile employees face verbal and physical violence on a daily basis. In certain cases, they are mocked, refused breaks, or not allowed to drink water when they fail to reach their (unattainable) daily goal.
SustainYourStyle. (n.d.). Fashion & Environment. [online] Available at: https://www.sustainyourstyle.org/en/whats-wrong-with-the-fashion-industry?gclid=CjwKCAjwkdL6BRAREiwA-kiczMWoX-358AKhhrG81B9YcVAbukqGth0psUQCw6fh2URcX_uvKmqOHRoCoGMQAvD_BwE [Accessed 6 Sep. 2020].