LONDON, United Kingdom — Apparel is one of the world’s oldest, largest and most global export industries. In a world where robots are used to automate many types of manufacturing, garments are still made by hands-on human toil. But fashion and apparel, as an industry, is failing the vast majority of its workers.
The scale of the failure can be seen in the 1,134 deaths at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, the five garment workers recently shot dead in Cambodia and the thousands of workers eeking out a living, all but enslaved in a South Korean factory complex built on the site of the Chambert Post Prison Camp in Haiti.
As a result, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Haiti have all been buffeted by recent protests staged by impoverished garment workers, who have gone on strike, fought pitched street battles with police and burned factories. In each country, their demands are the same: better wages and better working conditions.
Yet, across the board, the protestors have been accused of being traitors, bringing disrepute to their countries, jeopardising the garment manufacturing industries that have taken root there and causing foreign investment to flee.