Sociology on TV – Fashion’s dirty secrets

dispatchesThe latest episode of dispatches demonstrates how garments destined for New Look and Peacocks are being made in sweat shop conditions in Leceister.

The company making these garments (Sammi Leisure Wear) pays workers less than the minmimum wage – £2.50 to £3.00 and hour and the workers work in aweful conditions – no windows, very cramped, blocked fire exits, and no safety guards on sewing/ cutting machines. 

New_Look
Profiting from sweatshop labour in the UK

The aweful pay and conditins means that the production of theses garments is in breach of New Look’s ethical code of practise. Of course New Look can claim they do not know about the conditions in the factory – and they probably don’t – (they are now investigating conditions themselves) – New Look places an order with a subcontractor for a certain price and the subcontractor delivers – without informing New Look about the immoral and illeagal practises that go on in the factory. To be fair to New Look – Sammi Leisure Wear was actually sewing fake labels into the garments saying they had come from abroad.

It is also interesting to note how subcontracting is used by a company to deny responsibility for the sweatshop – the subcontracting allows them to claim that they do not know it was going on – my arguement is that they must – all they have to do is basic maths to work out that someone, somewhere is getting exploited in order for them to make such profit margins.

Also think about how the law is applied differently here –buying and selling stolen goods is an offence – but as far as I know buying something that was produced by a company that exploits it workforce by making them work in sweatshop conditions and breaches health and safety law isn’t illegal. Perhaps New Look should spend more money in investigating working conditions in its factories and less money promoting its fake ethical image.

The web site of the programe is worth a look – it ends on the following note –

So where does the buck for this level of exploitation stop? Campaigning groups say the retailers need to take responsibility and place the factories under closer scrutiny. Others say the government needs to step in and regulate the fashion industry. But what about our responsibilities as consumers? Instead of buying blindly perhaps we should stop to ask more questions about where and how these clothes are made. After all, they’re not being stitched thousands of miles away, but right here on our doorstep by people who are being exploited because of our insatiable appetite for dirt cheap fashion.

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