A campaigner has written an open letter to Bob Geldof about UK Aid being used to fund sweatshops in Bangladesh, ahead of a meeting tomorrow between the rock star and the UK international development secretary, Justine Greening.
Human rights worker Khorshed Alam says in the letter: “I am writing to tell you that UK aid money is being used to set up ‘special economic zones’ in Bangladesh. In zones that already exist, multinational companies pay workers less than £1 a day, trade unions are not allowed to function properly, and police crush protests with rubber bullets.
“This kind of ‘aid’ is not helping the poor. It is only helping the multinational companies. Companies like Nike, Reebok, Adidas, H&M and Gap all have factories in existing zones in my country. They provide jobs for local people, but at a cost of sweatshop-style working conditions.”
Bob Geldof will representing the organisation ONE who support the co-operative way of working. Many clothing co-operatives across the world have offered an alternative way of life to poor working conditions and pay.
The Bishopston Trading Company from Bristol is a co-operative that was set up to help a poor community in Southern India. The company sells Fairtrade clothes in the UK, made by weavers from the village of K.V.Kuppam, a long-established centre for cotton handloom weaving.
The co-op was founded in 1985, and by 2006 the K.V.Kuppam Tailoring Societies employed 213 tailors, who were paid above average wages and given secure employment all year round. In 2005 a factory was opened just out the village of K.V.Kuppam funded from six years of profits from the Bishopston Trading Company.
In 2012 the Bishopston Trading Company won best Fairtrade Business in the Fairtrade Business Awards.
An organisation in Devon is also helping to provide a better standard of living for producers across the world. Global Indigo supports small-scale co-ops across the world. They have established contacts with small co-operatives in Central and South America, Africa and Asia who all make crafted goods, but often struggle to market due to lack of access to the right customers or to the internet.
Ella Huffman, one of the founders of Global Indigo said that co-ops: “moves them away from (often corrupt) aid reliance, the producers work sustainably, they are rewarded and not reliant on hand-outs.”
The open letter to Geldof says: “So, Mr Geldof, I ask you not to promote economic development at the expense of human rights and basic needs. Please use your meeting with Justine Greening to support better provision of public services that meet the needs of the poorest, not the balance sheets of big business.
The meeting between Bob Geldof and Justine Greening will take place tonight and was organised jointly between Conservative Friends of International Development (CFID) and ONE, for CFID members.