Deadly Denim, the latest report by the Clean Clothes Campaign, accuses most of the important international jeans producers of still using sandblasting in the production process, even though many of them have already promised to ban the procedure. The website also reported the murder on leading Bangladeshi labor rights activist Aminul Islam, whose body was found today.
Deadly worn-out look
The report "Deadly Denim: Sandblasting in the Bangladesh Garment Industry" was based on interviews with garment workers in nine large confection factories and with experts. Almost half of the workers confirm that sandblasting, which is used to create the fashionable 'worn-out' look, is still standard procedure for jeans of leading brands like H&M, Lee, Diesel, Levis, D&G, Zara, C&A or Esprit.
Sandblasting however is very harmful for the workers, as it is very damaging to their lungs and causes silicosis. Factory owners admit they still use the process, but search for excuses ("It is impossible to meet the brands' demands without sandblasting") and admit to misleading health inspectors by only sandblasting at night.
"Brands and politicians need to act"
The Clean Clothes Campaign demands fashion brands take decisive action: "Contracts with factories that still use the process, should be terminated", says Frieda De Koninck from the campaign's Belgian branch, who adds that "cooperation with local unions is essential to impose the ban on sandblasting."
Politicians also have their role to play, says De Koninck: "We call on national governments to officially prohibit sandblasting, as the Turkish government did. The EU should also ban the import of sandblasted denim products", she adds.
Leading activist tortured and murdered
The issue of labour rights in Bangladesh became even more clear this weekend, as a leading activist was found murdered in the country's capital Dhaka. Aminul Islam had been brutally tortured after he disappeared from a labour rights meeting last Wednesday. It is believed that the local police were involved, as they are increasingly aggressive towards labour rights activists.
Aminul Islam had been tortured before, when he was arrested by the national intelligence service in the aftermath of the 2010 wage protests. Activists now demand "an immediate and impartial investigation" and hope the EU forces the Bangladeshi government to "stop the culture of impunity that has led to this tragic murder".