International Workers Day: life for garment workers today
Today to mark International Worker's Day, we'd love to remind everyone that Living Wages are a right for all. To celebrate worker's day, and to continue in the spirit of Fashion Revolution Week we'll be talking about the current garment industry and worker's conditions throughout the month.
First up, an extract from our co-founder over on Vice from last year, talking about how linked labour movements, garment worker and feminism are.
“Most people know by now that garment workers are criminally underpaid, with the average worker in Bangladesh earning the spending power equivalent of just 69p an hour, for 60 hours a week. With many workers forced to do overtime for fear of not having their short term contracts extended, when a big brand has a time sensitive order, their hourly rate gets pushed down. This means that they don’t receive their legal minimum hourly wage 64% of the time.
Huge numbers of garment workers also risk the sack for getting pregnant. One investigation alleged “that employees from 11 out of 12 factories in Cambodia reported witnessing or experiencing termination of employment during pregnancy”, leaving them few other employment options. Many women in the area are forced into garment work, as they’re “saved” by NGOs getting them out of the sex trade, only to find it lacks the same levels of income generation or autonomy.
When garment workers are surviving hand to mouth, the majority of earnings are handed over to the head of households, limiting women’s economic agency. As Lucy Siegle wrote in her 2011 exposé of the fashion industry, To Die For, “Cheap fast fashion is so often still presented as a wealth-creation scheme for poor brown people that it is frankly a wonder Primark hasn’t been given a Social Justice Award.” There’s a common idea that the offer of any work is emancipatory for women. From reading garment workers’ diaries and testimonials like those on the Fashion Revolution website, we know that in reality this is sadly just not true.”
...And yet, 80% of the richest people working in fashion are men. All ten of “The Top 10 Billionaires in Fashion” listed for 2017 were men, with 9/10 of them being white. These are the people who ultimately get to spend the profit, ironically, from that International Women’s Day promo tee.”
“Colonialism and enviromental racism must be addressed if we are to tackle climate change, gender inequality, environmental degradation and human rights abuses. The poorest people on the planet and their cheap labour are exploited to make fashion clothing.” - The Conversation