East Ham MP Stephen Timms says fashion mustn’t cost the lives of workers


- Credit: Archant

Last month was the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster. A factory in Bangladesh which was making clothes for sale in the UK collapsed. 1,129 workers died. Almost 3,000 others were injured. Clothes made in the factory were for well known British brands including Lee Cooper, Gap, Matalan, Store 21 and Primark.

We all want to be able to buy inexpensive clothing. But it mustn’t cost the lives of workers overseas. A number of constituents have been in touch to argue that we should ensure that those who make our clothes are treated well. I agree. Workers making clothes for British high streets should be able to expect a fair wage and safe working conditions. And UK-based brands must ensure that the factories supplying them don’t mistreat their workers.

There are close ties between East London and Bangladesh. In February, I visited Bangladesh with the charity Tear Fund. I learned that some of the British companies have failed to act responsibly since the disaster. One company stood out as having responded well: Primark.

Primark has been supporting the victims. They have now started to pay out long-term compensation to the workers, and to the families of those who died. In total, Primark will pay out $12 million. Some of the other companies have so far made no contribution at all.

Primark has also been looking at how to ensure that there are no further tragedies among its suppliers. Next week, I shall meet Primark to discuss their plans. I also intend to contact the other companies in the coming weeks.

The people who make our clothes are entitled to a fair deal. There is a long way to go in making sure they get it. Some of our biggest high street names need to face up to their responsibilities.