Do you ever go shopping, and wonder where clothes we buy are made? If you’re wandering round Birkenhead, Liverpool or the Croft, do you think about how the products on offer got there? I guess we all do at times, but it can be hard to know. How do you even find out? That’s why, when disasters like that at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh happen – when over 1100 people were killed when a factory building collapsed - we all would like to know what we can do to help keep safe those who make many of the garments we purchase.
The horrific images of the disintegrated factory and the consequent impact on human life at Rana Plaza were a terrible reminder of the risks that millions of people in the developing world face simply by going to work. They brought home the terrible risk that may sometimes be attached to the clothes we buy on Britain’s high streets, though these risks are by no means limited to the garment industry.
This week, a cross-party group of MPs have published a report on a trip they made to Bangladesh calling for consumers to have more information, and a kind of kite mark for standards. I think this is worthy of investigation.
Since Rana Plaza, there have been a number of important steps towards improving workers’ safety in Bangladesh and elsewhere, with a number of major high-street clothing retailers in the UK responding to consumer pressure and signing up to an accord which will fund an independent health and safety inspection body for Bangladeshi factories. However, other chains have failed to sign up and I would strongly urge people to sign the TUC’s petition to demand the six remaining retailers join the accord – you can add your name by logging on to www.goingtowork.org.uk and clicking the ‘take action’ page. Or ring my office on 645 6590 if you would like help to do so.
But Britain should seize the moment that the Rana Plaza tragedy represents to help forge a new, international approach to helping ensure that the workers who supply our high streets are employed in safe conditions. All of us in Wirral can be a part of that change.
By Alison McGovern for the Wirral News