Just before you go diving off to GAP to grab a new shirt or pair of boxer shorts you should have a quick read of these excerpts. I know it’s almost impssible to avoid supporting these companies through our daily purchases we all eat McDonalds etc but, at least if you have a little knowlegde you can make your own decisions on whether your happy to shop there…
excerpted from the book
The New Rulers of the World
by John Pilger
“The workers I met later, secretly, told me: ‘If Gap trousers have to be finished, we don’t leave. We stay till the order is full, no matter the time. If you want to go to the toilet, you have to be lucky. If the supervisor says no, you shit in your pants . . . we are treated like animals because we have to work hard all the time | without saying a word.’ I told them the Gap company boasted about a ‘code of conduct’ that protected workers’ basic rights. ‘We’ve never seen it,’ they said. ‘Foreigners from Gap come to the factory, but they are interested only in quality control and the rate of production. They never ask about working conditions. They don’t even look at us.'”
The following is article expands on the above…
Flying into Jakarta, it is not difficult to imagine the city below fitting the World Bank’s description of Indonesia. A “model pupil of globalisation” was the last of many laurels the bank bestowed. That was almost four years ago, in the summer of 1997. Within weeks, short-term global capital had fled the country, the stock market and currency had crashed, and the number of people living in absolute poverty had reached almost 70 million. The next year, General Suharto was forced to resign after 30 years as dictator, taking with him severance pay estimated at $15 billion, the equivalent of almost 13% of his country’s foreign debt, much of it owed to the World Bank.
From the air, it is the industrial design of the model pupil that is striking. Jakarta is ringed by vast compounds, known as economic processing zones. These enclose hundreds of factories that make products for foreign companies: the clothes you buy on the high street, from the cool khakis of Gap to the Nike, Adidas and Reebok trainers that sell in the UK for up to 100 pounds a pair. In these factories are thousands of mostly young women working for the equivalent of 72 pence per day.At current exchange rates, this is the official minimum wage in Indonesia, which, says the government, is about half the living wage and here, that means subsistence. Nike workers get about 4% of the retail price of the shoes they make – not enough to buy the laces. Still, they count themselves lucky: they have jobs. The “booming, dynamic economic success” (another World Bank accolade) has left more than 36 million without work
At a factory I saw, making the famous brands, the young women work, battery-style, in temperatures that climb to 40 degrees centigrade. Most have no choice about the hours they must work, including a notorious “long shift”: 36 hours without going home.
Clinging to the factories, like the debris of a great storm, are the labour camps: Hobbesian communities living in long dormitories made from breeze blocks, plywood packing cases and corrugated iron. Like the majority of humanity who are not touched by the delights of McDonald’s and Starbucks, the internet and mobile phones, who cannot afford to eat enough protein, these are globalisation’s unpeople. They live wit open, overflowing sewers and unsafe water for many, up to half their wages go on drinkable water. Through their homes run stinking canals dug by the former colonial masters, the Dutch, in the usual vainglorious attempt to recreate Europe in Asia. The result is an urban environmental disaster that breeds mosquitoes today, a plague of them in the camps has brought a virulent form of dengue fever, known as “break-back fever”. After several visits here, I was bitten and took two months to recover. For the undernourished young children in the camps, however, dengue often means death. It is a disease of globalisation the mosquitoes domesticated as the camps grew and as the sweatshop workers migrated from rural areas, having been impoverished largely by World Bank programmes that promote export cash crops over self-sustaining agriculture.
I could just squeeze along a passageway. It was filled with people’s clothes, hanging in plastic, like the backroom of a dry cleaner’s. The cleanliness and neatness of people’s lives is astonishing. They live in cell-like rooms, mostly without windows or ventilation, in which eating and sleeping are tuned to the ruthless rhythm of shiftwork in the factories. During the monsoon season, the canals rise and flood, and more plastic materialises to protect possessions: a precious tape player, posters of the Spice Girls and Che Guevera. I almost tipped over a frying pan of sizzling tofu. There are open paraffin fires and children darting perilously close. I watched a family of five perched on a patch of green, gazing at the sunset through a polluted yellow haze tiny bats circled overhead in the distance were the skeletal silhouettes of unfinished skyscrapers. It was an apocalyptic glimpse of a “globalised” world that Blair and Bush say is irreversible.
A code of conduct issued by the American company Gap says: “Dormitory facilities [must] meet all applicable laws and regulations related to health and safety, including fire safety, sanitation, risk protection and electrical, mechanical and structural safety.” Because these dormitories are not on the factory site, however, Gap and the companies they contract to make their products are not liable. Consumers humming into Gap’s numerous stores in Britain might reflect on this non-liability as they pay for smart shirts made by people who, on the wages they are paid, cannot afford even the buttons, let alone a decent place to live. Ten miles from the camps, along the toll road owned b Suharto’s daughter (he distributed the national power grid among his children banks and vast tracts of forest were tossed to generals and other cronies), lies downtown Jakarta. This is the approved face of the global “model pupil”. Here you can find McDonald’s with sugar-plump children on Ronald’s knee, and shopping malls with Versace leather coats at £2,000 and a showroom of Jaguar cars. One of the smartest hotels is the Shangri-la. There are four wedding receptions here every Sunday night. Last December, attended one that cost $120,000. It was held in the grand ballroom, which is a version of the ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria in New York, complete with chandeliers and gold-leaf arches. The guests wore Armani, Versace and real diamonds, and dropped cheques in a large box. There was an eight-tier cake with the initials of the couple embossed in icing and the holiday snaps of them on a world tour were projected cinema-size. The guests included former cronies of the deposed Suharto and the chief representative of the World Bank in Indonesia, Mark Baird, a New Zealander, who looked troubled when I asked him if he was enjoying himself. The World Bank says its mission in Indonesia is “poverty reduction” and “reaching out to the poor”. The Bank set up the $86 million loan that built the Shangri-la, which, shortly after the wedding attended by Baird, sacked most of its workers when they went on strike for decent pay.