This year marks five years since the Rana Plaza Factory collapse in Bangladesh where 1,138 people were killed and many more injured. Whilst this in itself is so tragic, the part I find the saddest is that these people were at work, trying to make ends meet, to feed and clothe their families. There is not one of us out there that can’t relate to this. What most who read this can’t relate to, is that their working environment was completely unsafe and that many were not earning a fair wage for the tasks they were undertaking.
I personally feel so lucky to not only have a safe workplace, but also a beautiful one – a fruit packing shed that, as a family, we have worked hard to transform into a clean, light-filled space, located 5km from the central NSW township of Forbes. As I write, the horses & cattle graze in the paddock behind me and the white cockatoos caw as they fly across the sky.
Whilst my role is in administration and operations, it is up to us to make choices in our manufacturing process to ensure that our workers also enjoy a safe, fair workplace. We employee two staff in our production space here at Forbes – Delia and Melissa – who also enjoy the light-filled, air conditioned and heated spaces whilst they work; both are paid above award wages and have flexible working arrangements to accommodate family commitments and the like.
Our commitment to our workers doesn’t stop with those who are “in-house” here at Woolerina – we are accredited with Ethical Clothing Australia which represents our commitment to the workers right through our production chain – knitters, dyers, and sewers. We are very much aware that without these people, our business wouldn’t be where it is today and that they too deserve fair and safe working conditions and to be paid accordingly.
As manufacturers it is so important that we make these choices, however as consumers we also need to “vote with our feet” – choose clothing from brands that are happy to share their workforce with us; from brands that choose local manufacturing; from brands that choose to be accredited with Ethical Clothing. And don’t be afraid to ask your favourite brands - #whomademyclothes ?