Creative Writing

Exploitation of blue-collared workers in factories doing ‘outsourced’ jobs for giant retailers

In recent years the plight of workers in small factories producing goods like shoes, sportswear, ladies undergarments, premium shirts for gents, electronic goods, plastic items etc. for giant retailers have drawn the attention of consumers and some pressure groups worldwide. These goods are made for primarily western consumers who buy it from retail stores at the end of a big supply chain controlled and managed by the retail giants. Such practice of getting items made in small units in countries like China, Vietnam, Philippines, Bangladesh, India etc., makes good economic sense. The unemployed multitude of the third world countries get jobs, the consumers in western world get good quality items at cheap prices, and the giant retailers make good profit.

But this method of cost-cutting and efficient supply management has been carried to the extremes in recent years. The retailing giants, operating under a capitalistic environment, want to get more market share by offering goods at rates cheaper than their rivals, at the same time trying to improve their profits. This continuous effort to bolster both the top and bottom lines of companies is in-built in the capitalistic free market system. Those managements, who can not perform to match that of their competing rivals are eased out from the market.

So what we see is a mad scramble by companies to cut prices and improve both quality and quantity of goods. Naturally the retailing giants look at the production points to bring about the desired cost reduction and volume growth. The vendors supplying goods to the large procurers are small scale units, always trying to ensure they get enough orders to keep their factories busy round the year. So the bargaining mechanism in the bulk procurement market is always weighed in favour of the procuring companies. They ruthlessly use this leverage to drive down the procurement...