Belfast Telegraph

Monday 30 May 2016

Our textile industry died ... now they're dying in Bangladesh

Lindy McDowell

Published 02/05/2013

Relatives of victims from the garment factory building collapse grieve at a morgue in Dhaka (AP)
Relatives of victims from the garment factory building collapse grieve at a morgue in Dhaka (AP)
Tragic loss: A grieving relative in Bangladesh

The first job I ever had was a summer job in a linen factory near where I grew up. The work wasn't particularly onerous, the other workers were lovely; in fact the only downside I remember was the smell.

Linen and flax have an undeniably earthy, fibrous smell – and not necessarily in a good way. Once whiffed never forgotten.

Our factory made tablecloths and tea towels.

It was a last straggling survivor of the great Irish linen industry once famed across the globe. Linen was the jewel in our textile trade.

By the latter half of the last century however, demand for it had fallen and our textile industry was concentrating on shirt manufacture.

Shirts factories all over Northern Ireland provided thousands of jobs to a mainly female workforce. These were skilled workers. Justifiably proud of the standards they achieved.

But the shirt factories were wiped out by "outsourcing" to the east. To places like Morocco and China and India where garments could be made for a fraction of the cost.

Even the high-end quality retailers who used to get their shirts made here, greedily made that switch abroad.

People in those developing nations undoubtedly have benefited from the employment opportunities the contracts from the rich West now provides.

But at what cost to the workers?

This week's terrible, heart-tearing images from the factory in Bangladesh where hundreds have died is bleak evidence of what happens when profits are put before human life.

Western companies which use these factories (and Primark and Mango are far from being on their own) have a duty to demand that safety is regarded as paramount.

We may all have to pay a little more for that.

But even where labour is seen as cheap, life should never be.

From the web

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting?

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph