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fredag, november 10, 2023

The social and environmental prices of European style made in Tunisia

The manufacturing line on the Tunicotex manufacturing unit is an extended one on this five-hectare hangar on the outskirts of the city of Slimane (Tunisia), on the opposite facet of the mountain that varieties the skyline from the home windows of Tunis. The arms of 1000’s of textile staff – most of them ladies – measure, sew and wrap.

The spools of colored thread are first remodeled into sections of material, then into jumpers for the autumn-winter assortment. These are then embellished with the logos of main manufacturers: Armani, Moncler, Lacoste, Calvin Klein, and so forth.

The ultimate stage is to use the label. Sitting at a counter, the door open to let within the final of the night solar, two ladies apply the barcode, repeating the identical mechanical gesture. Each weekend, lorries transport the garments from the large warehouse to the port of Radès in Tunis. From there they’re shipped to the key European ports, after which on to retailers in France, Italy, Germany and Spain. The meagre wage of the employees: a bit below 600 dinars a month, round €179.

”In Europe, no one needs to do that work any extra. And if Tunisia grew to become a wealthy nation, we’d not discover a workforce right here both”, says Haithem Bouagila, president of the Tunisian Textile and Clothes Federation (FTTH), a commerce affiliation representing employers. He’s additionally director of the Tunicotex manufacturing unit. Like most others within the sector, it enjoys offshore standing.

Sitting in his workplace, surrounded by the season’s new creations, Haithem Bouagila lists the benefits of the Tunisian market: ”near Europe”, ”cheap by way of transport”, ”with an extended custom within the subject”. However at what worth?

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The outsourcing of the fast-fashion business instantly brings to thoughts Bangladesh or China. However the Mediterranean area can be involved. ”Overseas entrepreneurs select Tunisia for its low cost labour, to the detriment of social and environmental rights”, feedback Mounir Hocine, president of the Tunisian Discussion board for Financial and Social Rights (FTDES), an affiliation primarily based within the Monastir area within the north-east of the nation.

Tunisia is the ninth largest exporter of clothes to the EU, after Cambodia, in response to a research carried out by the Centre Method du Textile in 2022. Greater than 1,530 firms are implanted there, representing 31% of the nation’s textile manufacturing. 82% of this manufacturing goes overseas. The business is constructed predominantly on a poorly-paid workforce of ladies. The queue of feminine staff in search of authorized help from the FTDES for abusive conditions is getting longer, says Mounir Hocine.

Meriem, qui s’est retrouvée au chômage à 40 ans, a installé sa machine à coudre dans son petit appartement. © Arianna Poletti
Meriem, who discovered herself unemployed on the age of 40, has arrange a stitching machine in her small flat. | Photograph: © Arianna Poletti

That is what Meriem did after dropping her manufacturing unit job. On the finish of the doorway corridor to her small ground-floor flat within the city of Ksibet El-Mediouni, just a few kilometres from Monastir, she has arrange her stitching machine. Together with her fingers lined in bandages, that is the place she now produces cleansing cloths. They’re then distributed to Tunisian malls by the Les Mains Solidaires cooperative, a mission supported by the FTDES, Legal professionals With out Borders (ASF) and IWatch. Its goal is to assist reintegrate feminine staff who’ve been pushed out of their jobs with out discover.

The explanation for such conditions: a drop in productiveness, usually as a result of sickness, an accident or just age. ”Youthful arms are faster,” says Meriem, who discovered herself unemployed on the age of 40. ”It will take some time for mine to loosen up after fifteen years of labor.”  Her sister, nonetheless sporting a inexperienced apron, concurs: ”My fingers usually flip blue from repetitive actions”.

”Round 65% of those ladies fall sick due to their work. They endure primarily from musculoskeletal issues”, explains Mounir Hocine. He says that the ”textile illness” represents a serious burden on state spending.

When she discovered herself out of a job in a single day, in the course of Covid-19, Meriem found that she had no rights and no bargaining energy. Social-security contributions weren’t included in her contract. Her manufacturing unit, a storage on the outskirts of Monastir, was not even registered.

”The sector features like a Russian doll”, observes Habib Hazemi, president of the UGTT’s Basic Federation of Textiles, Clothes, Footwear and Leather-based. Adel Tekaya, president of Utica, the opposite department of the employers’ affiliation in Monastir, confirms that ”tracing the chain of accountability may be very sophisticated, if not inconceivable”.

That is all of the extra true on condition that the common age of a textile manufacturing unit not often exceeds 9 years: after ten years, firms can now not profit from the tax benefits assured by Tunisian funding legislation. ”They take steps to relocate once more, or reopen below a special identify. On this means, nobody is answerable for the social and environmental harm they go away behind”, says Mounir Hocine of the FTDES.

Fatima Ben Amor, a distinguished determine in civil society within the small city of Ksibet El-Mediouni, is aware of this very nicely. This younger activist, who grew up after the 2011 revolution, is working with the Affiliation for the Safety of the Ksibet Atmosphere (Apek) to scrub up the bay to the south of Monastir. For years, native factories have been utilizing the bay as a dumping floor for his or her air pollution, which incorporates chemical compounds reminiscent of dyes, acetic acid, detergents and hydrogen peroxide.

La baie au sud de Monastir est polluée par le secteur. © Arianna Poletti / Reporterre
The polluted bay to the south of Monastir. | Photograph: © Arianna Poletti

At subject: the washing and dyeing of denims. This supply of ”Tunisian satisfaction”, as some native entrepreneurs name it, is a ending course of involving numerous chemical compounds and big water consumption: between 55 and 72 litres per pair of denims, in response to the FDTES.

In 2022, 11 million pairs of denims had been exported to the European Union. 85% of them had undergone this therapy.

The president of FTTH assures us that ”the big firms within the area have all the required certifications and a closed cycle that permits the water to be reused”. However the sea reverse the city of Ksibet is decidedly murky. Just a few boats are swaying on a blanket of inexperienced algae. ”Thirty years in the past, this was a nursery for a lot of Mediterranean fish species. Immediately, there’s nothing left”, feedback a employee on the port of Ksibet El-Mediouni, talking on situation of anonymity.

Quite a few fishermen within the area confirmed that numerous fish had disappeared. Persons are additionally affected: the area people believes that carcinogenic illnesses are on the rise, however a most cancers register has by no means been arrange. The younger activist’s conclusion: ”Whether or not it is people, vegetation or wildlife, nothing lives right here any extra. For whose profit?”

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