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”.