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Saturday, 23 August 2014

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Love that £3 T-shirt now? None of us can pretend we didn’t know how Primark’s clothes were made

The pursuit of Primark for Carlisle has gone on for so long now, it has grown into a standing joke.

Symbolic of a city grasping in panic at economic straws of hope ... any hope.

Not so funny now though, is it? Not so hopeful either, now the true cost of a cheap pair of jeans and £3 T-shirt is revealed as at least 380 lives lost under a pile of burning rubble.

Primark was just one of a number of retailers using the Bangladesh Rana Plaza factory which collapsed on its workers as they laboured to supply some of the richest countries in the world with some of the cheapest clothing on the global market.

That’s an ugly thought. But it’s the damning reality of an immorality called greed. And aren’t most of us guilty of that?

There aren’t any words suitable to make the tragically oppressive link between tolerated and accepted Bangladeshi suffering and a rush for Carlisle bargain hunting . Grotesque? Perhaps – but it doesn’t nearly come close.

When we hunt for cheap garments we shop with our brains closed and sensitivities suspended. Inconvenient conscience is left at home under lock and key.

When we seek a leg-up for struggling high streets, we press for retail occupancy to plug eyesore gaps left by failed businesses.

Never a thought for what lies behind those rock bottom prices we crave, we prefer not to dwell on the sweat shop conditions that claim impoverished lives to give us the kind of pleasing snip of a purchase least likely to rattle the bank manager’s cage.

Four garment factories occupied six of the eight floors of the illegally constructed building where up to 2,000 people worked.

New Wave Style, the largest of the factories, lists retailers such as Primark, Matalan and Bonmarché among its customers. All the retailers have expressed shock and sympathy, sending condolences to the families and friends of the 380 dead and the more than 1,000 injured.

Primark added: “Primark’s ethical trade team is at this moment working to collect information, assess which communities the workers come from, and to provide support where possible.”

It would be wholly wrong to lay the blame for this calamity entirely at the doors of retailers seeking to maximise their profits.

In a free market relying on the supply and demand principle, demand has been more than demonstrated by British shoppers who would be the first to scream blue murder were they asked to toil for less than minimum wage in conditions likely to kill them some day soon.

Demand has been vociferously and proudly expressed by councillors anxious to tempt bargain retailers of foreign garments into their city. Whenever a space larger than a double garage has come vacant, you can be sure someone has tried to tempt Primark into it.

None of us can pretend we knew nothing of the suffering stitched into those cheap seams. We are responsible for the demand that crippled our own textile and tailoring industries in favour of inexpensive imports. While refusing to relinquish any of our rights to fair pay and safe working conditions, we assumed foreigners didn’t count. They didn’t matter, so long as they were saving us money and bolstering our shopping centres.

It’s not that we didn’t know why those garments were so cheap – we just didn’t want to think about all the reasons that would have been too troubling.

Well, now think... as if conscience could allow you to do otherwise.

Have your say

we want value cheap is what we want.

Posted by Jim arnold on 27 May 2013 at 18:13

Sadly so many repetitive deaths for those earning their bread to feed families. British clothing mill factories such as at Belper in Derbyshire were once subject too fire risks until methods of construction altered. History mill town sites show local graveyards of children killed at work, on perhaps looms. I believe things will now be implemented for such building constructional change in at least Bangladesh. I have a fashion designer (Ba) son where does his company send him (and others) without risk, when visiting foreign sites to see initial batch quality, quantity etc. I recall what you don't see... that he has seen. It was'nt very pleasant, as you may don your garment on. Corperate greed goes on. Where Next ?Whatsoever the cost, it' can also made with blood. Okay, it's not your's to care. Hands cut picking cotton......

Posted by Royl on 24 May 2013 at 10:18

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