MPs are right to ask how a dress can be bought for £2.50 when it’s made in the UK, where the minimum wage is £7.83
Britain spent around £40bn on clothes last year, but most of us are dimly and uncomfortably aware of the industry’s true costs. Only occasionally are we jolted into acknowledging them. Five years ago, the Rana Plaza factory complex in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,134 people. The death toll – and the fact that frightened workers had been ordered into a building with large cracks – shocked the world into a reluctant recognition that labourers earning a pittance for clothing western consumers are often doing so in unsafe circumstances.
The outrage led to the Bangladesh Accord, a legally binding international agreement on fire and building safety backed by major western brands. It covers both independent inspections and remediation. Worker empowerment and trade union involvement are key components. The improvements have been dramatic, and its five-year term was extended to 2021.