Letter: Sweatshop victims

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I have worked for 35 years in the Leicester textile industry and in this time have witnessed its severe decline. Paradoxically, there are more textile companies in Leicester now than ever before - but the great majority are small inefficient concerns depending heavily on cheap labour.

Unwilling to join in the further decline, I have for the last year worked as a consultant mainly in India. On my visits to Indian factories I have never observed the degree of disregard for safety, health and general welfare or the low wages which are a regular part of the Leicester textile industry.

The textile industry in Britain has been treated badly by successive governments since the mid-1970s. This has appeared to be part of a deliberate policy to ditch the industry in this country. I do not necessarily disagree with this policy, as textiles is an industry which can be easily transferred to other countries which can produce cheap goods and help raise the standard of living of the local population. However, we have left ourselves in a half-way house where we are attempting to compete with these cheap imports.

The law regarding wages and conditions should be enforced rigorously. This would mean more resources for factory inspections, which are inadequate in Leicester. This would force the industry to become more compact and efficient. This more efficient industry is still needed to produce specialist or quick turn-round goods.