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2015-02_dc

D+C Vol.42.2015:2 23 High price does not ­guarantee fairness Textile manufacturers’ associations like to claim that their members, unlike budget brands, work with “clean” suppliers. That claim prompted me to take a closer look at what is happening in Bangladesh. With the help of civil-society partner RISE (Re- search Initiative for Social Equity Society), I conducted a local investigation, comparing work conditions at suppliers making gar- ments for quality brands such as Hugo Boss and Tommy Hilfiger and those supplying fast-fashion retailers such as H&M. To start with, it was very difficult to find the garment-makers that supply Hugo Boss. There are around 5,000 clothing factories in Bangladesh employing 4 to 5 million work- ers, 80 % of them women. RISE identified two sewing factories. The conditions there were just as bad as at other factories. At one Boss supplier in Chittagong, for example, workers were exposed to constant verbal abuse and many did not even have a formal employ- ment contract. Overtime was compulsory; the seamstresses did not know when they would be free to go home. That, in my view, amounts to forced labour because those peo- ple cannot plan their lives. I also discovered that parts of the factory were apparently so poorly constructed that inspectors have recommended they should be closed. In the wake of the Rana Plaza dis- aster on 24 April 2013, in which 1,134 people died and more than 1,500 were injured, over 180 predominantly European companies signed an Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. Hugo Boss never signed up. The accord provides transparency for the first time, because the inspection reports are published on the internet. They allow trade By Gisela Burckhardt Many people buying a branded fashion garment think that the higher price they pay means a better quality product and better working conditions for those who made it. Sadly, they are generally wrong: just like discounters, expensive fashion labels have products made in poor conditions. AbirAbdullah/EPA/picture-alliance When the Tazreen Fashion factory burned down in 2012, 125 workers died and many more suffered injuries.

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