BARGAINS COST MORE THAN WE PAY

The labourer is worthy of his reward. 1 Tim.5:18

We all get a thrill when we find a good bargain, whether it’s clothes, fruit and veg, a PC, or whatever. But we rarely ask why so cheap or dig deeper to discover who is paying the real price.  Where do our bananas, coffee, tea come from?  Many plantations are owned by very large multinational companies where profit is king.  Plantation workers are often exposed to dangerous chemicals, must work long hours for little money and are prevented from joining together to demand better working conditions.

The garment industry is notorious here. The appalling loss of life in the Bangladesh factory complex cannot be described as an accident – it was a tragic incident just waiting to happen. When factory owners can ignore building regulations, pack machinery and hundreds of workers in unsafe conditions, they will, blinded by greed, ignore risks and safety in order to make profits from “High Street chains” in Europe. Demand for cheap clothes exists – it must be supplied. We, shoppers just want a good bargain; we don’t consider the labour, conditions or the human cost.

As a little personal exercise in awareness raising try this some morning when eating your breakfast: First look to see where your coffee or tea has originated. Then take your cereal or fruit. Where have they come from?  How many miles has your food travelled?  How many workers do you need to thank for providing you with your breakfast?  How much have they been paid?  What are their working conditions?  Of course we can’t answer all these questions, but it’s useful for us to formulate the question, and maybe do a little research.

We live in an interconnected world. Our relative comfort depends on manual industrial and agricultural workers in the poorer continents and countries. The harsh truth is that this comfort and the accessibility of goods we enjoy also depend on unjust working conditions and sometimes virtual slavery of workers elsewhere.  

If some of these workers come here looking for a better life have we the right to say no to them?  As one African woman said at a Conference in Paris many years ago: “we welcomed you to our countries (which you then exploited for your own use), but when we come to your countries you want to send us away”.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.  Heb.6:10