After watching two documentaries that show the more positive side of fashion, I decided to face reality and watch the Panorama documentary ‘Dying for a Bargain’ on Kompany. The documentary covers similar topics as ‘The True Cost’ which I’ve spoke about the importance of in the past. I think it’s important, especially in an industry such as fashion, to be realistic about what is really going on behind the scenes – and this is exactly what ‘Dying for a Bargain’ shows. Showing the grueling conditions of sweat shops in Bangladesh, the documentary shows us what really goes into making clothes for shops like Primark, Matalan and Lidl. Bangladesh is the second biggest exporter of clothes but with rules being broken, and human rights being forgotten, it poses the question, once again, of whether cheap clothing is really worth it?
The documentary focuses on fires that break out often in Bangladesh sweat shops. 1,134 people died in the Rana Plaza sweatshop in April 2013, with 2000 being injured. In 2012 over 100 people died in the Tazreen Fashion sweatshop in Dhaka. Panorama discovered gates were often locked by guards (and that even worse, this was still on-going) to stop workers stealing whilst they went on their breaks. When fires broke out the hundreds of workers only had one exit to try and escape through.
It’s not just unsafe working conditions – the sweatshop owners are also guilty of lying to the chains they’re selling too. Going undercover, Panorama asked questions about the workers hours. The owners, seeing them as potential Western buyers, told them that all laws were being obeyed, and that workers would do 8 hour shifts, with 2 hours overtime max. However this was far from the truth. Workers would arrive at 7am to do 19 hour shifts, and the owners would just keep two different time sheets, one that told the Western employers what they wanted to see, and others that told the truth. Often employers aren’t even being paid for their overtime, and this makes what is happening all the more appalling.
The documentary was made in 2013, so hopefully things might have improved, but if we’re being honest with ourselves this is very unlikely. It’s all well and good for clothing companies to say they don’t know what’s going on, but surely with as much money as they have, they can find a more ethical way to do things. In this day and age everyone should be getting their basic human rights at the very least – not fearing being forced to work 19 hour shifts just to be trapped in a fire due to poor working conditions.
Until next time,
Image sourced from BBC