A decade of deflation and plummeting prices has left foreign outsourcing sectors exhausted. Market research firm Verdict reported retail manufacturers are facing an increase in foreign employees, rent payments and increases in fuel charges as a result of unsustainable low pricing of fashion garments. "Companies like Tesco, Primark and Asda have squeezed their suppliers to the limit, forcing them to push down prices," says Simon McRae of War on Want. "Quite simply it can go no further without suppliers virtually working for free."
"There's a huge difference in the way we shop nowadays. Cheap clothing means that customers view their clothes as almost disposable," says Sam Maher of Labour Behind the Label. "Competition is high and there are no more distinct seasons, with new stock arriving in stores every couple of weeks,” reported Scotsman.com “This means that lead times for orders becomes shorter, so workers need to do mandatory overtime, which is often unpaid. Workers are often dismissed if they protest [about this], and it can be made very difficult for them to form unions to protect themselves."
After several allegations of giant super stores like Tesco and Primark being linked to possible sweat shops and abuses of third world Bangladeshi factory workers consumers should be bidding the question, “Do you have a fashion conscious?”
These sweatshop workers are often working 80 hours a week for a measly 5 pence an hour under abusive and unsafe conditions. The Herald recently reported 100 Bangladeshi workers were killed and several more injured, “when factories making clothes for British high street shops collapsed and caught fire while the workers were locked inside. It did not name the chains involved,” but factory workers have confirmed they are often locked within the factory as supervisors “want to keep control over the workers, and they don't like the idea of people being free to leave."
The Herald also reported War on Want claims to have uncovered child labourers among these factory workers. A 13-year-old girl called Nazera, is one of them, “working in a factory earning £7 a month and worked from eight in the morning to eight in the evening. She started straight out of primary school and the most poignant thing was that she said the highlight of her day was when supervisors let them out to play at lunchtime."
"The mark-up on these [disposable] clothes is actually so substantial that retailers could afford to treat their workers fairly, absorbing the extra cost and still make a hefty profit, but it's just greed that prevents them from doing so," says McRae of War on Want.
Within the next five years woman’s clothing prices will rise by almost 5 per cent which is a marked difference to the almost ten percent decrease over the last four years reported Verdict. Along with this statement arises the misconception that higher priced clothing results in better conditions and treatment of workers. Ed Watson, head of marketing ASDA recently told Daily Mail “I have just returned from Bangladesh, and on the same production line working on clothes for George, they were making garments for H&M, for Cherokee at Tesco, and for M&S. The impression is that people working in our factories are paid less, but they are paid the same as those who work for all those other brands.”