Money, Money, Money

17 04 2008

Since starting this blog I feel that I have become more of an ‘activist’ as such, due to the fact that I have tried in numerous ways to try and highlight how we, as a Western society, affect those working in sweatshops in exploitative conditions; the ways in which we can change this.

One way in which I have been helping those affected is by using the search engine EveryClick – a search engine with a difference.

Even though I have already discussed EveryClick in a previous blog post, I just feel that it is vital to highlight to all of you the immense amount of good that the programme has done so far.

If any of you need a small reminder what EveryClick is, then here one is! EveryClick is simply a search engine just like any other out there – Google, Yahoo etc: – however what makes its different is that through using it you can raise money for many different charities.

The revenue for EveryClick is generated by advertisers who pay for sponsored listings within the search results and banner advertising. Therefore the more people that use EveryClick, the more the advertisers’ listings are clicked and the more money is raised for charity. Over one half of all the revenue EveryClick generates each month is given to charity.


(Copyright: EveryClick)

To this day, EveryClick has raised £428,906.94 through 111,811 different people; £123.54 has been raised for ActionAid and£439.33 for War On Want.

This may not seem like a great deal of money, however one must consider that in fact it is, since it all has been generated merely through searching the Internet, which is quite an easy and hassle-free task!

Yet, we can all do more to help raise these values, as the more money these charities gain, the more resources they can create and distribute, to ultimately make a difference.

As EveryClick works the same way as normal search engines, then why don’t you make EveryClick your default search engine?

If I have tempted you to sign up, and I hope that I have, then click here.

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Pledge Your Loyalty!

29 03 2008

Many of you may be thinking that the issue of exploitation and sweatshops may not be high on the agenda for the Britsh media industry, however you would be wrong.

Just last week, ThisIsLondon.co.uk reported on how the opening of an American fashion giant’s first UK store in Regent Street, Banana Republic, had been disrupted by protesters. The disruption occured due to claims that garment workers in India making Banana Republic’s clothes are being forced to work more than 70 hours a week for as little as 15p an hour.

With more and more news articles being reported like this everyday, how can we, as consumers, help reduce the impact that our consumption habits play?

Well one way in which you can help is by pledging your loyalty.

While I was browsing the Internet I came across a campaign of ActionAids, that I have already mentioned in a previous newspost actually, entitled Who Pays? Pledge Your Loyalty.


(Copyright: ActionAid)

Through signing up to this campaign you will be pledging to the following:

Many people around the world who produce goods for UK supermarkets endure exploitation and poverty.I want Government regulation to tackle this problem so I know no-one has suffered producing the goods I buy.

Once you have signed up you will gain 300 loyalty points with the chance to earn more and more, simply through campaigning about this issue in a variety of ways.

Campaign options include downloading campaign posters and distributing them to others (500 points), answering poll questions on related topical issues (150 points) to even digitally dressing up like a banana, in order to spread the word to family and friends (1000 points).

Once enough points have been created you can then spend them on items such as ecologically-friendly bags.

So what are you waiting for? Pledge your loyalty like I have done and spread the word today!





Every Click Helps!

24 03 2008

I realise that with many of my previous blog posts I have mentioned how we, as consumers, can do our part to reduce the exploitation in sweatshops that occurs all around the world, however in reality this may not be enough and instead of changing your shoppng habits it will merely be food for thought.

Even though I hope that many of you have started to atleast think about the ways in which your shopping routines can have consequences for others, I would also like to make you all aware of ways, that are free, in which you can help with this cause, simply at a click of a mouse; the website which allows you to do this is EveryClick.


(Copyright: EveryClick)

EveryClick is simply a search engine just like any other out there – Google, Yahoo etc: – however what makes its different is that through using it you can raise money for many different charities.

For those of you who have alarm bells ringing with the word ‘free,’ do not fret! Revenue is generated by advertisers who pay for sponsored listings within EveryClick’s search results and banner advertising, therefore the more people who use EveryClick, the more the advertisers’ listings are clicked and the more money is raised for charity.

Half of EveryClick’s revenue is allocated to charity each month.

You can even select the charities that you would like to raise money for, such as the ones I have already mentioned: ActionAid and War On Want.

If you would like to do your part, just like I have started doing, then sign-up by clicking here.





Who Pays?

17 03 2008

Well you would think that it would be us, the consumers, however in reality it is actually Chaturi Salaman, a Sri Lankan garment worker, and other Sri Lankans like her.

ActionAid’s investigation entitled Who Pays: The Real Cost of School Uniforms is particularly striking in illustrating the damaging effects that purchasing cheap school uniforms can have for other fellow-human beings in Sri Lanka.

According to figures by the Joint Apparel Association Forum, more than £50 million worth of clothing is exported to the United Kingdom every year, while women make up 80% of the workforce. Even though such jobs are of an exploitative nature, many women decide to work in the sector, simply because it is a route into employment.

ActionAid’s investigation involved interviewing 12 workers from one factory producing school uniforms in Sri Lanka and two factory owners in Sri Lanka producing clothes for Marks & Spencers. All of this occurred between July and August of 2007.

The investigation found that there is a lot of pressure on suppliers to deliver large orders of school uniforms quickly and cheaply; this affects the workers by increasing the target numbers that they must reach.

Chaturi Salaman, a 22-year-old garment worker, said: “When it gets really busy many of us are crying at work because we can’t handle the pressure. If we are behind schedule then the workers who do the ironing and packing have to work through the night to get the orders done.”

Yet although the women garment workers stated that the extra overtime to complete extra orders is not compulsory, they felt pressurised into doing the extra work, in order to meet deadlines.


Garment workers in Sri Lanka
(Copyright: War On Want)

Chaturi Salaman also describes the working conditions in which she has to put up with.

“When a big order comes in our supervisors scream at us if we can’t increase targets. We don’t drink water because that would mean having to go to the toilet and often we only have a couple of bites of food at lunchtime because otherwise we won’t finish our work in time.”

Even though this on its own seems shocking enough, the wages that the garment workers receive are also abysmal.

ActionAid’s interview found out that only 2% of the retail price for the £6 school uniform dresses sold at Marks & Spencers outlets across the United Kingdom actually goes to the Sri Lankan garment workers. This, combined with the poor wages, results in many workers remaining in poverty.

In reality, trainees gain £16 a month (3,650 rupees) for their first sixth months of work. If they meet all of their targets then wages are increased by (500 rupees) every six months. Yet for many, this increase is ineffective.

Regarding this issue, Renuka Sulman, a 26-year-old garment worker from Columbo, said: “When I first became a garment worker I thought that in five years I’d be able to save enough to go home and start a family of my own. I’ve been working here for nearly ten years now and every month I am getting poorer.”

Working in the garment industry also has negative impacts for the women, due to the fact that they face discrimination and stigma.

Padmini Weerasuriya, an ex-garment worker, said: “Garment women get called juki badu meaning they are slaves to the sewing machines. There is an assumption because they get worked so hard for so little money that they are worthless.”


Sirin Ankar and her one-year-old child
(Copyright: ActionAid)

So what can we do, in order to reduce the amount of pain and suffering that is going on, simply for the right to gain cheap clothes to wear?

Well, the first step is to recognize that there is actually a problem and hopefully by reading this blog post, you will be a step closer.

Secondly, by joining campaigns such as ActionAid’s Who Pays? campaign, we can all take regular action to make supermarkets play fair in developing countries.

In terms of supermarkets, the second that they publicly acknowledge the harmful impact that they are having on their workers in countries such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, then steps can be taken in order to address and ultimately prevent it from happening.

I would like to end this blog post with a quotation that I read that has really stuck in my mind. I think that you would agree that it seems like we take much that we have in Western society for granted, especially when other fellow-human beings do not have the same.

Sirin Ankar, a 24-year-old Bangladeshi garment worker making school uniforms for Asda said: “I spend my days making school uniforms for other families, but I can’t afford to give my own children clothes or an education.”





The Month of Madness

16 03 2008

Out of all the months in the year August is undoubtedly the most hectic and mad for parents with school children, since its the last chance to grab those bargains on school uniforms, which can easily run up into their £100’s, especially through the prices nowadays for new school shoes – no wonder why the school uniform market in the United Kingdom is currently worth £450 million!

To make the purchase of new school uniforms more appealing, retailers across the United Kingdom fight to ensure that their prices are the lowest ones possible, effectively reducing their products and prices to the lowest common denomentor. Asda’s George label clearly illustrates this trend, since an entire uniform can now be purchased for as little as £9.96; consists of:

* Polo shirts – 75p
* Trousers – £1.75
* Skirts – £1.75
* Shoes – £4.50

Yet by making these prices possible for us, the consumers, ultimately has a direct consequence on others – the people who actually create the products themselves.

ActionAid’s investigation entitled Who Pays: The Real Cost of School Uniforms is particularly good at highlighting this problem; to view the video clip, simply press the ‘Play’ button below:

 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The key points from the video clip, I feel, are as followed: 

* 2 million women work in the clothes-making industry in Bangladesh.

* Standing all day is the norm, while getting told off by supervisors is common through beatings.

* Sick leave is allowed, only if you are willing to not get paid and in many cases get fired from the job.

* 5p an hour is the average wage for garment workers creating school uniforms.

* Long hours and poor wages mean that some workers only see their children twice(!!!) a year.

This certainly is disgraceful, considering how 5p transforms into a selling price in the pounds. It ultimately seems that many retailers are only interested in gaining a profit, not matter who they harm or exploit in the process. Something needs to be done and things need to change…

My next blog post will be a follow-up to this one, however instead of focusing on Bangladesh like the video did, Sri Lanka will be the focus of the study, since the exact same thing is happening there too. I will also try and suggest ways in which we can all help to try and stop this process from happening too.





Imagine…

3 03 2008

We all realise the importance of wages, whether we have a 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday job, a part-time job or know someone that works to provide for us. Not only does the money that people gain help to provide a roof over their heads, electricity, heating and food, but for many, wages also enables one to have entertainment and to splash out on the latest ‘I want this’ consumer goods.

Yet, imagine a world where none of this was possible. Imagine a world where 80 hours of work per week is the norm and the cost of living widely surpasses the wages that you receive per month. This isn’t the storyline of some fictious novel, it is real life for many that work to provide the clothes that you and I wear in Western society.

From reading War on Want’s Let’s Clean Up Fashion: 2007 Update you will not only come to realise how little fashion brands in the United Kingdom are doing in order to support their employees working in their supply chains, but also how you as a consumer help to fuel the high-levels of poverty, mass starvation and exploitation, merely from purchasing the clothes from such retailers.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23.3, states: “Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection” and while it seems that the majority of people working in the United Kingdom gain wages that are reasonable to live off (please notice the word majority here as I do acknowledge that poverty-stricken areas exist in the United Kingdom where high-levels of unemployment occur) this doesn’t seem to be the case in places such as: Bangladesh, China, India and Morocco.

Lets Clean Up Fashion: 2007 Update recently conducted a study on living wages versus actual wages of employees working in the countries mentioned above, solely from using their local partners in-country. One must consider that the figures given for the study are valid, due to the fact that the partners are either trade unions or non-governmental organisations that have day-to-day contact with the workers. The results were as followed:

Country

Average Living Expenses (£’s)

Average Wage (£’s)

Bangladesh

£40.00

£17.60

China

£66.00

£31.02

India

£54.00

£24.30

Morocco

£200.00

£120.00

Thailand

£130.00

£65.00

Vietnam

£45.00

£25.20

These figures are certainly shocking, especially when you take them down to the individual level, such as with Rahela from Bangladesh who is working in a factory supplying UK supermarkets. She told ActionAid: “Sometimes we don’t have enough to eat. My neighbours are too poor to give us anything. I cook what I can manage. Sometimes its just rice.”

 
Left: Mohua: £300 per year sewing for Asda.
Right: A high-profiled model that earns the same amount in a matter of minutes.
(Copyright: War On Want)

Yet all is not lost, since despite Rahela’s misfortunes, one must consider that she is at an advantage compared to other exploited workers, due to the fact that she is aware of her situation, her rights and the support that is available from the local labour rights organisations.

The Lets Clean Up Fashion: 2007 Update information pack states that for workers to have meaning and access to their rights to Freedom of Association, they need to be aware of their rights and situations, like Rahela is. They argue that the clothing company Matalan is a repeated offender that excludes the Freedom of Association from its Code of Conduct, while companies such as Sainsbury’s are the most aware of such a situation:

Our Indian factory have a local trade union named ‘Kamgar Ekta Sangathan’ (which means Workers unity organisation in English) which is recognized by Central and state government. This union is active all over India and works for workers welfare and rights. The union conducts training and seminars regularly every month, on site at the factory. Union members are democratically voted in by the workers on the site. In addition to the seminars and training at the factory to promote the access for the Unions, it has [to] provide the union their own premises on site which the workers are free to join, and use as the point of contact for any issues.

Moreover, the fact that many companies are starting to join up to the Ethical Trading Initiative – whose main aims include “to promote and improve the implementation of corporate codes of practice which cover supply chain working conditions” and “to ensure that the working conditions of workers producing for the United Kingdom market meet or exceed international labour standards” – certainly conveys that combatting such a problem as this will not fail and fall on deaf ears.

All in all, the Lets Clean Up Fashion: 2007 Update information pack has certainly helped me to start my discovery on how different people across the globe are exploited and the consequences of such an exploitation, solely for a piece of fabric which nine times out of ten is worn by people living in Western countries. I must admit that I am quite shocked by what I have found out, since many of my clothes have come from the companies mentioned in the information pack, hence meaning that I am fuelling such unfair treatment. I feel that the information pack has certainly been an eye-opener and I look forward to investigating further. Why don’t you download the information pack by clicking here and leave your comments below too!