Toronto is the latest north american city to pass a “No Sweatshops” apparel purchasing policy a couple of days ago. Toronto’s city council buys about $4 million in apparel annualy for police, firefighter and TTC uniforms (transport workers). It is however only the second city in Canada with such a policy (Vancouver passed such a policy last year). In the US about 60 cities have committed to a “No Sweatshops” policy.
The policy requires manufacturers of city apparel and their subcontractors to pay fair wages, respect freedom of association, womenâ€™s rights and worker health and safety, and forbids the use of child labour, forced labour, excessive hours of work, and discrimination. It also requires manufacturers to disclose where they produce city apparel so that any worker rights violations at those factories may be brought to the attention of the City.
On those grounds, very few if any factories in Bangladesh would qualify. One can only hope that the BGMEA (garment manufacturers and exporters) are taking heed of such developments. Of course as long as the big corporate fish continue to turn a blind eye then things will remain as they are. Here is a Canadian undercover report by Luc Chartrand which shows that as recently as last year (November 2005) Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, despite claiming to have a very strict corporate code of conduct and one which explicitly states that the company will not deal with any supplier that employs children under age 14 is still buying from Bangladeshi factories which employ young children.(CBC News, Luc Chartrand reporting. Click on the fat factory manager below to watch. 2.4mb QuickTime. You need QT installed and broadband obviously helps)
And in case you need reminding of what the fuss is all about - view a slide show of a recent disaster at a sweatshop by clicking the image below.