Consciences are uncomfortable things and mine’s been giving me a bit of trouble lately. I’ve been on the horns of a dilemma (sorry for the cliche but who can resist the imagery?) about employment practices.
We allow ourselves a handwringing moment, a short burst of outraged righteousness and then run off to buy a pair of jeans for $35 or an entire dinner set for $15. Do any of us truly believe goods made on the other side of the world – or any where else for that matter -can really be this cheap? We can no longer avoid – well I certainly can’t – that most inconvenient of truths; that the dark flip-side of retail therapy is slavery by any other name. The appalling working conditions in some Asian factories are being exposed by unions and human rights groups and there’s really no other word for it; 18 hour working days, 7 days a week with no rights and no protection. What else can we call it?
As world wide consumers we have huge, albeit unleashed, power. It’s time for a campaign.
We could do with the Asian-worker-plight version of Sue Kedgley in a pig crate. Perhaps Labour and Green MPs who have teenage and young adult children could coerce them to participate in a week long reality show which mirrors the exact working conditions in an Asian factory which supplies, say, the Warehouse. We must remember to provide nets for the jumpers.
When I was a kid my mother was forever reminding us that Wilberforce freed the slaves. Turns out our mindless retail greed has enslaved another generation of them.