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Ask first about the 
labour not the label

The collapse of the Rana Plaza clothing factory resulting in the deaths of over 1,100 people and injuries to almost 2,000 of the 3,000 who were on the job on April 24 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, has at least sent a wakeup call to the shopping denizens of the world that in choosing a purchase they should ask first about the labour not the label.

The director of Caritas in Dhaka, Father Benedict D’Rosario, reflected, “It is a responsibility that falls to each of us… governments, industry, customers, everyone. Business people from rich countries come to us because labour is cheap, but everyone forgets how hard the lives of workers are when they are paid US$50 ($388) a month!”

He added that the government in Dhaka has tried to do something, but explained that unscrupulous private companies overrode its attempts.

He also had words for far off consumers. “I think everyone should ask themselves why a shirt produced in Bangladesh costs €20 ($200), while one produced in Europe costs €80 ($800).”

Father D’Rosario suggests that in a world of interdependency no one can claim not to hold some responsibility towards those who sweat to put clothes on their backs, food on their plates, shoes on their feet or knick knacks in their pockets, on their desks or around their homes.

“I believe that we must be aware that people from all over the world deserve equal dignity and human rights, not only those who live in our country. Everybody knows about this situation, the government and the people, but we must examine our consciences and ask what we can all do together,” he added.

Speaking on the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, Pope Francis called it enslaving creation. “We are called to cultivate and safeguard all the goods of creation and in this way, we participate in the work of creation,” he said, adding that work anoints the dignity of the person, as it identifies them with God, who is continually working.

“He is always acting,” the pope quoted St. John as saying in his gospel (5:17).

Pope Francis then zeroed in on Rana Plaza saying, “Not paying a just wage. Not providing work, focussing exclusively on the balance in the books, on financial statements, only looking at making personal profit, that goes against God.”

On the day after the tragedy, the pope said, “This is called slave labour and today, in this world, there is slavery that is made with the most beautiful gift that God has given to man; the ability to create, to work, to be makers of our own dignity.”

He described slave labour as putting the person at the service of work, explaining that it is work that should be offering a service to people, so they may have dignity.

A sign of hope in this tragedy is that some international companies have vowed to take an interest in how their products are produced and pay attention to the well being of the workers.


However, it is the consumer who holds the cards in this game. They must also be part of the equation and take an interest in the labour and not just the label when making their choices in what to buy. JiM