For those of you who in the last month have kindly started following this blog could I just again explain I’m on an over 60’s gap year for 5 months touring around South East Asia.
If you want to follow me there I’m on travelswithmywife.wordpress.com
I am however popping on to this on occasions when something catches my eye about Puglia and today is one of those days.
A couple of years ago when we were last in the Far East we came back on Qatar Airways, not an experience we will ever repeat may I add. We changed planes in Abu Dhabi with a couple of hours wait to get on the Rome service. Once onboard we were stunned to see that bar 4 Italians sitting along side us the plane was almost entirely full of Chinese who had connected in from various flights out of China. The Italians alongside made comment that we were very much a minority and made some very non P.C. remarks which actually were quite funny.
It prompted me to do a little research into this Chinese phenomenon and I found then that several towns in northern Italian had become almost totally Chinese with street names and restaurants etc with Chinese names. They were all in the leather working area of Italy and it was a way for the Chinese manufacturers to finally get their hands on the “Made in Italy” brand that means so much to the fashion conscious around the world. Well at least they haven’t got their hands on my Peroni brand I thought and I don’t like leather coats anyway.
On Friday it all moved much closer to home with the news that the Carabiniere had raided three Chinese sweatshops on the outskirts of Martina Franca. Now like most Italians in the area I had rather welcomed the influx of Chinese shops into Martina Franca. they advertise themselves by having one or two Chinese lanterns outside and from just a few they have grown to some 20 shops over the last couple of years. It has meant much cheaper clothing which has been welcomed by the youngsters and by anyone stunned by the prices of clothes in Italian owned shops. It seems crazy to be paying for very ordinary clothes probably made in China anyway we thought and perhaps naively assumed that the Chinese shops were happily importing their own stuff from there too.
Now it seems they had in fact set up sweatshops on the doorstep. The conditions the Carabiniere found were fairly horrific. Up to 50 workers in a single dormitory with no light or heating working 7 days a week. The food in their kitchens was all immediately condemned as unsafe for human consumption as were the fridges and the freezers it was in. The working conditions failed to conform with any of the factory rules and the machinery considered unsafe and dangerous to use. Of the 150 workers in the three factories 25 don’t seem to have papers to work in Italy and the rest have no record of tax or social service payments.
Who would have thought we would have three sweatshops within a couple of kilometres of where we lived. I do wonder how the Carabiniere found out about them and hopefully it wasn’t a tip of from the local mafia who couldn’t get a piece of the action but at least they have been found.
So as I sit in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam little did I realise that an outpost of the Chinese Socialist Republic was just around the corner at home in Puglia. How many more of them are there in Puglia I wonder ?