Factory workers are being “robbed of tens of millions in wages”, the home secretary has been told.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Dr Lisa Cameron MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Textiles and Fashion, have written to Priti Patel to demand urgent action over labour exploitation. They claim exploited garment workers have been denied £27m in lost earnings since July.
A joint letter, signed by more than 50 cross-party MPs and peers – as well as a further 40 retailers, investors, and NGOs – was sent in July, calling for the government to introduce a licensing scheme for garment factories in the UK.
It stated a “Fit-to-Trade” licensing scheme “would protect workers from forced labour, debt bondage and mistreatment” by ensuring they are paid the minimum wage and given various other benefits. The scheme would also encourage retailers to source more of their clothing from the UK, supporting the country’s manufacturing industry.
The BRC estimates that over 10,000 garment factory workers are being paid an average of £3.50 an hour – below the National Minimum Wage of £8.72.
In July, online fashion giant Boohoo came under fire following an article which alleged that workers in a Leicester factory making clothes for the company were being paid as little as £3.50 an hour. The fast fashion company said it would investigate the allegations and end relationships with any supplier it finds to have broken its code of conduct.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said:
The BRC has repeatedly called on Government to do more to prevent labour exploitation in the UK garment manufacturing industry.
Despite numerous reports in the media, and a previous letter to the Home Secretary signed by over 50 MPs & Peers and more than 40 retailers, investors and NGOs, we have not seen any action from Government to bring this injustice to an end.
All the while garment workers are robbed of tens of millions of pounds in wages.
Our members continue to stand firm against labour exploitation. Implementing statutory licensing of UK garment factories would ensure they are all ‘Fit to Trade’.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?