Everyone loves a bargain, but what’s the real cost of cheap clothes from the sweat shops in Bangladesh? On April 24th, 2013, more than a thousand people were killed when an eight story building collapsed in the heart of Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka.
With the collapse of the Rana Plaza, the world’s attention turned to the shocking conditions that the country’s clothing industry workers are forced to endure. In recent years, many companies have flooded into Bangladesh to take advantage of lax labour laws and the lowest wages in the world, paid to the predominantly young, female workers in the factories.
Working backwards from some of our best known retail outlets, Four Corners goes factory to factory showing workers and union organisers Australian labels until the factories are found. There the workers describe a miserable existence, long hours, pitiful pay and abuse if deadlines aren’t met. In some of the worst cases there is even violence and threats of jail:
“Workers are being arrested, beaten, tortured … you know, sexual harassment, just on and on and on. This was a miserable sweatshop.”
Why would Australian retailers allow their brands to be associated with such activities? In Bangladesh, it’s all about price. Local factory owners claim they are squeezed so hard by retailers they simply can’t afford to ensure their factories are safe. The explanation is simple according to one European buyer:
“It’s price, price, price, price, price and profit”.
Watch the full documentary now