Talking Fair Fashion in a Field in Wales
It's one of Europe's biggest independent music festivals, with five music stages and a huge spoken word tent, yet here we are in a small tent on the periphery which is genuinely 'ram-packed'. No, it's not a secret Ezra Furman gig, but a talk about Fair Fashion, organised by the Wales TUC.
Throughout the Green Man Festival, the Wales TUC offered talks on fairness in the workplace - including fair fashion, building a fair work nation, and creating better jobs for the South Wales Valleys. We attended the Fair Fashion debate which discussed the scandal behind the global fashion industry.
The guest speaker was Dr Jean Jenkins from Cardiff University. Dr Jenkins was extremely knowledgeable on the subject, having visited factories in Bangladesh and Pakistan - and was sure in her conviction that there's not a single factory there where standards are acceptable. She asserted that fashion labels have no interest in anything but the bottom line, and have only taken action so far due to international pressure and potential legislative changes.
The Wales TUC have worked with the Clean Clothes Campaign to encourage better standards in garment factories, and following the Rana Plaza factory disaster, set up the Accord on Fire and Building Safety. Sadly Dr Jenkins felt that many fashion labels are not complying with the Accord (which we saw in the news about H&M back in May).
As well as using Union subs to support campaigns like Clean Clothes, Wales TUC are raising the profile of the importance of Union membership. Dr Jenkins explained that Union members in garment factories are likely to be suppressed - either publicly humiliated or alienated from their fellow workers. Union membership is stamped out, making it extremely difficult for the workers to have any representation and to acquire basic workers rights.
It was disheartening to hear that so little progress has been made in these areas, despite tragedies like Rana Plaza which killed over 1100 workers. However, there is hope in that organisations like Wales TUC are continuing to raise awareness and are working with other organisations to implement change. For our part, we can continue to put pressure on fashion labels, and shop fair trade until they get their act together.