47964 A Good Day To Die Hard

We can easily find out where our t-shirts, shirts, blouses, jeans and pullovers have been made. All we have to do is take a look at the label: Made in Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Pakistan, China – _or Made in Cambodia. And everyone has an inkling of the tale of suffering that may lie behind it. It's highly likely the seamstresses were not paid fairly. That they were easily treated so badly that we'd rather not think about it. But our guilty conscience remains. A coat for 39.90 euros! How is this even possible? An autumn dress for 19.90 euros! Under what conditions was it sewn? The photo of the dusty corpses of a woman and a man recovered from the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza textile factory in Bangladesh in the spring of 2013 is uppermost in our minds.

Improve the lives of the seamstresses?

In the shops of C&A, H&M, Zara or Primark, customers are increasingly asking critical questions: what is your company doing to make things fairer? Why don't you just raise the prices for T-shirts and trousers by a few cents and improve the lives of the seamstresses and their families?

Yes, why don't you?

As studies conducted by the market research institute GfK reveal, ethics and morality play an important role in shopping for half of these customers. They are even prepared to pay more for clothing produced sustainably and fairly. So as you can see, a feeling can be transformed into a real economy.

The factory is located behind high walls on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. A security guard opens the three metre-high steel gate to Seduno's factory site. The hall with the seamstresses is as big as a football field. Here, in 42 long rows, 2000 mostly young women sit in front of sewing machines on narrow wooden benches that are slightly bent forward. There is the sound of rattling and humming. A roar fills the hall, like the sound of surf. They manufacture 18 million garments here every year. The boss of the factory laughs, his whole body shaking in the midst of the waves of noise and humid air. "That's what it sounds like when everyone's working well", he says proudly. Some women look up and smile, slightly embarrassed. They sew hoodies for C&A and blouses for H&M that will end up being sold in Germany in a few weeks' time.

A can of Coke costs a dollar

At the markets in front of the factories, the seamstresses shop for their families. A can of Coke costs a dollar, syrup made from pressed sugar cane just a few cents. At 6 o'clock on the dot, the gates of the Dakota factory open. Workers want to get home as soon as possible. In the dark, the roads are dangerous. Accidents and deaths are commonplace.

A coloured pennant hangs above every seamstress. If it's green, she's on target. Orange means detention. During the lunch break, some lie exhausted in the shade under a truck with a shipping container on it. It's currently being loaded with goods for Europe.

At six o'clock in the evening on the dot, all the sewing machines stop. The women clock themselves out at a time recording machine using their fingerprints. Minutes later, the bright neon light in the hall goes out. Three seamstresses stay behind to talk to stern. No-one from the factory management is there, but as a friendly gesture six bottles of water have been left in a meeting room for us. The women say they can talk openly. It is apparently a good factory. There are many that are worse, they say. They work eight to ten hours a day, six days a week. Sometimes seven. If they perform well, they make about a dollar an hour. A starvation wage, even here in Cambodia. Their families can't live off their wages.

Now the interpreter translates the question: how much more would you like to earn?

The three of them look at each other in disbelief. No one's ever asked them that before. In Cambodia, the government determines how much is paid to workers in the factories –namely the minimum wage of 170 dollars a month.

Maybe five dollars? 

So will anyone say anything? Finally, Phorn, the oldest in the group at 37, says, "maybe five dollars". She means five dollars more a week. Heng, the youngest, shouts, "or ten?".

Their faces beam. They're now talking about what they'd do with the money. They could buy better food, not just the cheap and sour soups that are available for ten cents in plastic bags from the dealers in front of the factory gate.

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Source : https://www.stern.de/wirtschaft/news/textilfabriken-in-kambodscha--der-preis-des-anstands-8430194.html