AMSTERDAM – Global brands hold the key to breaking the cycle of low wages, worker repression and adversarial industrial relations in Bangladesh – that’s the view of Christie Miedema of Clean Clothes Campaign. In an op-ed for forthcoming edition of Apparel Insider magazine, Miedema argues that ongoing downward pressure on garment prices means the ready-made garment industry in Bangladesh is trapped in a race to the bottom – leaving a better deal for garment workers a distant pipe dream.
But she claims the root of these issues is the fast fashion business model which is linked to lower prices and shorter lead times. She argues the model is, “a major driver of labour rights violations.”
She also calls for major brands sourcing from Bangladesh to recognise the link between sourcing practices and worker oppression.
She says: “Only by instilling trust that higher prices will not stand in the way of continued sourcing relationships, by expressing public support for worker demands, and by actually paying higher prices – with an earmarked part for wages – can apparel companies truly work towards sustainable employment conditions.
“Apparel companies need to recognise that they retain the power in this industry to ensure workers work and live in dignity by paying higher prices. The saying ‘where there is a will there is a way’ has never been so true as when referring to the potential for apparel brand action leading to industry change.”
The comments come in the wake of news that many garment workers remain out of work in Bangladesh following wage protests two years ago, with some still facing criminal charges from factory bosses on what are, in some cases, said to be trumped up charges.
NGOs such as Clean Clothes have been instrumental in coordinating pressure by brands to encourage factory owners to drop charges against factory workers.
The full op-ed, including detailed overview of the current situation in Bangladesh, will appear in our next printed magazine.