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2 December 2020

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Fast fashion, big profits, low pay

Wolfgang Lonien/CC

Wolfgang Lonien/CC   (Click to enlarge)

Lamley Amoako-atta, West London Socialist Party

It's estimated that the fashion industry is worth 2 trillion globally and brings 30 billion a year in revenue to the UK. Yet garment workers are paid a pittance in comparison to what the big bosses are paying themselves and their shareholders. Despite countless initiatives adopted by big corporate brands to be more 'ethical', garment workers are still being treated unfairly by exploitative bosses.

Over the last decade or so, there has been a real growth in cheap and easily accessible design-inspired frocks to the public. The segment of the fashion industry dubbed 'Fast Fashion' is a highly profitable business model, established by copying catwalk trends, and mass producing them at low cost.

Factories across many of the world's poorest countries produce clothing for the UK. Workers in these industries struggle to survive on low wages, with long hours, and in unsafe working conditions. Bangladeshi garment workers are the world's worst paid, typically getting 25 a month, way below the 45 a month needed for shelter, food and education.

Factories in Leicester linked to Boohoo were found to be harbouring sweatshops and paying their employees 3.40 an hour, way below the minimum wage of 8.72. Meanwhile, Boohoo's executives have seen the company's share price skyrocket.

Sweatshops are not a new phenomenon in Britain; Friedrich Engels wrote about this in his book "The condition of the working class in England", published in 1844. Despite this book being published over one hundred years ago, little has changed. Workers are still being exploited and the only thing that has 'changed' is that the ruling class has found new ways to make it look like they are trying their best to be 'fair'.

Capitalism is the reason garment workers were, and still are, being treated unfairly. It's the reason why the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse happened in 2013, killing 1,134 people, and the reason why children are making our clothes. Garment workers need to be treated fairly, that means a living wage, access to healthcare, sick pay, maternity and paternity leave, and safety in the workplace. This means workers getting organised in trade unions, in Britain and internationally, to fight for their rights.

As long as these factories continue to be owned by individuals seeking increasing profits, exploitation of workers will continue. We need to make the demand that the workers' themselves own and control the industry by nationalising the factories under democratic workers' control and management as part of a socialist planned economy.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 2 December 2020:

What we think

Spending Review. Unions must resist return to austerity

Spending Review

What will the spending review mean for me?

Napo kickstarts fight against pay freeze


Better for billionaires. Worse for workers

Arcadia and Debenhams closures: Nationalise to save jobs and pensions

Scotland: Campaign wins end to period poverty

NHS: Underfunded, understaffed, underpaid

News in brief


Where is devolution heading?

Workplace News

Don't let the festive season be one of misery for retail workers

Equity union conference calls for radical change - now lead a fight!

Solidarity with Brighton UCU strike - we won't pay for Covid crisis

East London teachers strike in support of victimised union rep

Heathrow workers strike against 'fire and rehire' plans

Hackney: Stop plan to halve school support staff!

Pay freeze protest Homerton Hospital

Unison general secretary ballot closes


'Building back greener' - yet more Tory greenwash

International News

Conflict in Ethiopia: ethnic-linguistic divisions are the historical product of capitalist inequality


Review: Friedrich Engels - Condition of the working class in England


Socialism 2020 feedback

Wales TUSC plans to mount an electoral challenge

Rent strikers' victory in Manchester student halls

Labour meeting lets MP get away with 'Spycops' abstention

Selling the Socialist

Fighting fund target smashed!

Reader's opinion

TV: The Social Dilemma

Fast fashion, big profits, low pay

Diego Maradona - Working-class rebel, football genius

Socialist Inbox


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Article dated 2 December 2020

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RMT picket at Nottingham station - East Midlands Railway dispute - Sunday 13th June, photo by G Freeman

RMT picket at Nottingham station - East Midlands Railway dispute - Sunday 13th June. Photo G Freeman

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