Saturday, April 27, 2013

Workers Memorial Day - The cost of cheap clothes is paid for in blood & why we are all guilty

Tomorrow is Workers Memorial Day (WMD). An international day of remembrance for those who have been killed in accidents at work or who have died of work related ill health.

As I type this rescuers are still trying to save workers trapped for days in the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The BBC report that at least 336 people have died and 600 are missing.

WMD is also a campaigning day to fight for the living as well as remember the dead.

We all have to take responsibility for the dreadful events in Dhaka. The ridiculous cheap prices for clothes at discount stores such as Primark or Matalan is paid for in blood. Shoppers need to understand this and demand responsible and accountable ethical sourcing.

But the problem is wider than this. No doubt the middle class John Lewis brigade will be shaking their heads in disgust at the thought of all these chavs buying their cheap clothes - while at the same time their pension and insurance policies are profiting from the world wide exploitation of the same workers.

Pension trustees need to raise their game and make sure that the companies they invest in have pro active and vigorous supply chain inspection regimes and that all their sub contractors truly respect workers rights and safety. 

We also need to make sure that that the huge contract pension and insurance funds that don't have any trustee oversight are brought into the responsible investment fold. If you pay into any product that invests in any part of this supply chain you can't wash your hands of your responsibilities as a owner and a beneficiary of what is done in your name.

Why don't we make UK companies and investors legally responsible for the reckless mass deaths of companies they invest in as they are for the manslaughter of workers they directly employ in the UK? 

Also, before we get too smug, don't forget the 20,000 plus Brits who die prematurely every year in this country because of their work.

Check the TUC website for list of local events to mark Workers Memorial Day.


Anonymous said...

"Why don't we make UK companies and investors legally responsible for the reckless mass deaths of companies they invest in as they are for the manslaughter of workers they directly employ in the UK? "

Why would anyone run a business with such attitudes?. If I ran a business fitting solar panels on roofs, you would want me to be personally sent to jail for any accidents or deaths. Why bother to start a business? Why take such risks?. if there is a death, the legal costs are huge, let alone the trauma of loosing a business, home and ones freedom. Better to sit at home and watch daytime TV.

The unions never take any risk? So they don't know.

On another point, Why dont you look at the pension of Newham Council. As a Councillor will you get a pension. They have put money in arms companies and a few other disagreeable places. May be you do have blood on your hands?

Anonymous said...

It is crazy to say not to buy goods from Primark or Matalan. Many of these workers rely on jobs. These third world countries may be behind in terms of building standards and safety. But by saying 'we wont buy from you', will mean they have no means to improve building codes or their standard of living. The contract they get will probably be for a season.

Are you a snob to single out Primark / Matalan?. A lot of the more expensive brands use overseas factories too. Just because prices are higher, does not mean the factory worker got any in wages. Even the likes of Apple has been exposed...

John Gray said...

Hi anon
What is the problem with holding people responsible if they kill people? This is the whole point of law isn't it?

The majority of businesses, big and small in this country take their responsibly for their workers and customers very seriously.

Genuine accidents are different from reckless negligence. Your argument is I’m afraid just silly. If in this country you fixed solar panels on roofs which fell off and killed people because you did a rubbish job then of course you should be held responsible.

Unions take risks all the time. We deal with real people facing real issues and problems.

I’m not a pacifist so see nothing wrong in investing in arms production for our armed forces or allies.

Selling arms to dodgy dictatorships is another issue.