Some of the stories recounted in the Guardian (1) make you feel ill. Here are some of them:
- Garment workers fclaimed they were forced to work 'overtime' of 6-18 hours per week.
- Employees claimed they were made to work without pay to meet unattainable production targets.
- Female workers were harassed by male superiors.
- Security guards patrolled the toilets to bully workers to get back on the production line.
- Workers berated over PA system.
- Workers dismissed for missing work due to illness.
- Workers collapsing through over-work, stress or bad working conditions, and needing medical attention.
- One female worker, a mother of two young children, hanged herself because of the pressure to meet targets. She had only been working at the palnt for 20 days and had been refused permission to leave the day she committed suicide.
- Another female worker, 9 months pregnant went into labour, and had to spend an hour and a half filling out forms before she could leave the factory. She eventually gave birth in the street and the baby died. Astonishingly, her employeers claim the baby died because she dropped it. (2)
The classic response to people who express unease about the explotatitive side of globalisation is that the people who are being 'exploited' are benefitting from the process, being given jobs, opportunities and advantages they would not have enjoyed, and earning more than their fellows. They accuse the dounbters and critics of being naive, but they are the ones who are guilty of naivety - or dishonesty. In the continual drive for profits, there is no space for unions or workers rights. the gulf between production cost and profit has to be kept as wide as possible.
The report details workers who earn £1.13 for a nine hour day. The Bangalore trade unions estimate that a living wage for workers would be just £2.50 per day (3). That is all. The workers could be paid a living wage, the companies could still make a healthy profit, and the consumers could stil enjoy cheap products. But it seems that is too much to ask.
The anonymous woman whose baby died returned to work after three months paid leave. She explained, "I need the job. If I have no job, I have no food." (4)
1 - "The sweatshop high street - more brands under fire," by Karen McVeigh in The Guardian, 3rd of September, 2007. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/supermarkets/story/0,,2161301,00.html)
2 - ibid.
3 - ibid.
4 - ibid.