The Word on the Week

Expensive clothes

Normally Bangladesh is associated with cheap clothing but this week it was identified with the most costly clothing on earth. Most costly in terms of workers lives with the death toll in the collapsed clothing factory currently at 300 and rising.

The eight storey factory, in a town outside Dhaka was unsafe. Cracks had appeared in the walls the day before. The President of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association said “We had very clearly told the owners not to open.”

The workers were aware of the danger and did not want to enter the building. Their supervisors told them that all pay would be stopped if they did not go inside.

There are no trade unions in this factory. If there had been workers could have withstood the order to return to work. The owners, one of whom is a politician, have disappeared. News just in indicates that two of them have given themselves up.

Retailers in the West who use these factories have basic requirements written into their contracts. These cover such matters as the exploitation of children and the right to collective bargaining. Of course some manufacturers have been known to outsource production to other less well regulated factories that may operate to yet lower margins.

Wages can be a low as €1 per 10/15 hour day. This enables garments to be sold in Dublin at unbelievably low prices.

Before we boast of our latest bargain we need to consider the true cost which may be much higher.

What has the Bible to comment on these things?

St James has something to say to the greedy factory owners who hold back on their labourers’ wages –how much more dire their peril where they disregard the safety of their workers for their own profit Chapter 5 verses 1- 6.

Wealth is attractive because it brings temporal power, control over others and the pride that accompanies these things.

It has been said that money will get you anywhere except into heaven. St Peter put it succinctly in his first letter to the Christian churches, “It was not with silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him so that your faith and hope are in God”. Chapter 1 verses 18-21.

Faith in Jesus is the only way any of us will be redeemed whether we be the factory owner or the most recent worker to be rescued from the rubble…or the purchaser of that cheap shirt!