You know where your bag may have been made, but who made it? What does bag factory work involve? What's the pay like? Your mission is to think carefully about the work that went into making it. For this mission, you will have to be an inspector...
1) inspect your bag!
Pick it up. Examine it carefully. What kind of materials is it
made from? Why is its texture different on the inside and outside? What
is printed on it? How many coloured inks have been used? What is it like to touch? What does it smell like? Turn it inside out.
Look at the stitching. How many pieces of material is it made from? Doesit look like it was stitched entirely by machine or
perhaps by someone sat at a sewing machine? How could you guess? Can you find any fingerprints on your bag? Write down your thoughts.2) inspect its factory audit.
We contacted a factory we liked to ask questions about the bags we wanted them to make. We also wanted to make sure that they wouldn't be produced in some awful 'sweatshop'. So, we asked for copies of recent factory inspection (or audit) reports .
These reports judged the factory and its workers' pay and conditions against the Base Code of the Ethical Trade Initiative
(ETI) and local laws. They were commissioned by UK supermarkets who are members of the ETI and had their bags made there. They gave a fascinating but limited insight into the work that people do in this factory.
We want you to gain a sense of the work that went into making your bags from reading the following information taken from a 2010 factory audit. Think carefully about what this kind of audit can (and can't) say about factory workers' jobs and lives.
3) write to someone who made your bag!
- this factory was making packing bags for well known supermarket chains in the UK and France;
- there was one 2-story building for production, warehousing and an office, a flat building for production, and another flat building which was a canteen (there are no dormitory buildings);
- there were 6 separate processes in bag production: printing, coating, cutting, sewing, inspection & packing;
- 71 people worked in the factory, 47 of whom are involved in bag production;
- the machinery in the factory included 1 printing machine, 1 auto cutting machine, 4 high speed cutting machines, 2 coating machines & 39 sewing machines;
- one colour photo shows the sewing machines set up in two rows in a long workshop, with workers at each one sewing panels together to make the bags (the workers are making an orange Sainsbury's shopping bag with an elephant on it);
- another photo shows the bags boxed and stacked on pallets for shipment (this is where our 100 boxes containing 50 bags each seem to have been stacked onto the 2 pallets that were delivered to us in Exeter);
- there are other photos of the factory exterior, the canteen, a water cooler, fire extinguishers, and eye washing equipment;
- factory workers did not belong to a labour union, but they could communicate with management directly and via a suggestion box;
- the workforce had a 50/50 gender
balance, with men and women earning equal pay, and with equal pay for
workers in the printing, coating and cutting workshops;
- workers were paid at the minimum wage (in cash) and, in their confidential interviews with the auditor, reported no problems with their work;
- from May 1st 2010, the local minimum wage increased from RMB 720 to RMB 920 per month (equivalent to 4.37 to 5.29 per hour): that's from £69 to £88 per month (or from 42p to 51p per hour); from US$105 to $135 per month (or from 64¢ to 78¢ per hour); from €79 to €101 per month (or from 48¢ to 58¢ per hour);*
- the audit was announced in advance, took 7 3/4 hours on one day, and involved one auditor checking records (e.g on wages and overtime), and doing inspections and confidential interviews with 10 workers (2 male and 8 female).
Now, use your bag inspection notes and this audit information to:
- imagine what it might be like to work in this factory, and to live on these wages;
- imagine a man or a woman whose job it was to print your bag's logo and ladybirds, laminate its fabric, sew its panels together or pack it in boxes of 50 for shipping;
- inspect your bag again, think about whose fingers that have touched it and made it for you;
- imagine what you would say to one of those people if you had the chance;
- think about the questions you might ask to find out more than the audit report can say; and
- imagine you had a postcard to write on, whicht would be delivered to that person at work.
Your mission is to write that postcard
. In no more that 100 words, what would you say?
you are 13 or over, please submit what you would say in the comment box below, or
write it in your explorer diary. If you are under 13, please email what
you would say to hello@missionexplore. We will email you with the secret
code to unlock your bonus points. If you want to write a real postcard, please send in photos of both sides]
* these calculations are based on the historical currency conversion data on xe.com.