By Lois Wandless
The Bangladeshi clothes production industry generates 80% of the country’s total export revenue, however this wealth gained is not reflecting on the workers’ welfare.
War On Want online explains that the majority of workers in Bangladesh are being paid just above minimum wage at 5,000 Taka a month which is approximately £45, which for many is required to provide for a family. Not only are the workers earning a low income, but the working conditions are also poor, with many working as much as 16 hours a day, seven days a week. Throughout these long working hours employees are exposed to hazardous conditions in cramped working spaces, while suffering discrimination and abuse from mangers. The Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, which is considered the deadliest structural failure accident of modern human history, epitomises the life-threatening environments which workers are subjected to everyday. Fashion workers are suffering every day to earn a living; however, it is these same fashion workers who are making a stand for their rights as an employee and they are beginning to be heard.
Prathibha Ramanth is an ex-factory employee who is now a board member of the Garment and Textile Worker Union (GATWU) in Bangalore. The GATWU is an organisation which fights for garment workers’ rights in Karnataka, India; the GATWU is especially important for the area as it is estimated that approximately 3% of the fashion workforce in the sector is unionized. Prathibha, along with other members of the union, are working hard to raise awareness for many workers in the Bangalore and surrounding areas. Her goal is to work on direct mutual exchanges with big textile companies such as H&M and Zara to raise awareness about the global garment supply chain and enable concrete solidarity between workers along the supply chain. So far Prathibha and the GATWU have been able to voice their thoughts to 250 members of works council members and 30 members of Zara general works council over conference call. Prathibha explained “A new negotiation strategy can strengthen our union work” during the conference call, organised by the ExChains network. To find out more about Prathibha and hear her speak about the subject click here.
Another woman fighting for action from factory owners and the brands behind them is Taslima Taslim. She worked in a garment producing factory in Bangladesh where after forming a union to ask for better working conditions, she was fired. After being fired from her workplace, she has now been blacklisted for over a year and is unable to gain a job in any other factory within the area. She has spoken out to Sustainable Fashion Matterz on her poor treatment within the factory and how if she did not meet targets of 1000-1200 pieces a day she would be shouted abuse at by proper senior supervisors. Taslima is now also a member of the GATWU and is working to incrementally change the conditions and management of factories in the Bangalore area. To find out more about Taslima and her story click here.
The world needs strong women like Prathiba and Taslima who can hopefully empower many other workers to speak out to big brands so their rights as workers are not compromised.