• John Martin

Factories and the Bible - Part Two

Manufacturers and Retailers Cut Costs -

After World War Two, manufacturers and retailers discovered that countries such as Bangladesh and India did not have laws which governed pay and conditions. Factories went ‘off-shore’ to avoid paying higher wages and providing good working environments.

The nineteenth century working conditions moved to Asia, Africa and Pacific Islands, where in many places they still apply.


On 24th April, 2013 the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, a clothing factory, collapsed killing 1,134 workers and injuring approximately 2,500 others. Although some businesses on the ground floor of the building had closed because of the cracks that had appeared in the building’s walls those responsible for the garment workers insisted that they go to work … with disastrous results. Many of the clothing items to emerge from that building were destined for the shelves of shops and boutiques in Australia.


Global reaction was shock and horror. But soon the world media moved on to the next disaster and Rana Plaza risked being forgotten. However, many people asked how could it be that beautiful garments attractively presented and highly priced could have such horror behind them. Rana Plaza was only the tip of the iceberg. Some were prompted to action.

For example each year in April, the anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse, Baptist World Aid in Australia produce their Ethical Fashion Report. This can be accessed at www.behindthebarcode.org.au Their annual Ethical Fashion Guide is based on this report.

In a similar vein Shop Ethical research the supply lines of various products. See www.shopethical.org.au They have a book, app or website.

In October, 2017 Oxfam Australia produced ‘What She Makes’ a major report on the conditions and wages of workers in countries like Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Vietnam and China. See https://whatshemakes.oxfam.org.au/resources/

For those who like fiction A Harvest of Thorns by Corban Addison, published by Quercus in 2017 is a fictional story set amidst the reality of the global unjust garment trade. The starting point is a disastrous fire in a garment factory. Unlike most novels this book includes a section of discussion questions aimed at exploring the reader’s response to the injustices in the fashion industry supply chain.

On 28th November, 2018 the Senate passed Australia’s first Modern Slavery Act. The effect of this is that large companies will have to report on what progress they are making in eradicating slavery from their supply chains. Factories will come under closer scrutiny.

Why should Christians be interested in all this?

#unfairlabour #workingconditions #offshoremanufacturing #Bangaladeshclothingtrade #Indiaclothingtrade #ModernSlaveryAct #CorbanAddison #AHarvestofThorns #WhatsheMakes #Oxfam #RanaPlazacollapse #behindthebarcode #Ethicalfashionreport #Baptistworldaid #RanaPlaza #ShopEthical #Modernslavery #antislavery

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