‘A bad dream’: Nepalis who made UK’s PPE speak out on claims of abusive working conditions
9 February 2022
A judicial review of the UK government’s contract award has been filed by Wilson Solicitors, the firm representing a group of workers, and co-claimants the Citizens, a media nonprofit that has investigated UK government contracts awarded through the pandemic.
Nusrat Uddin, a partner at Wilson Solicitors, says: “This case is believed to be the first of its kind in the sense that it’s challenging the UK government’s own due diligence in relation to the products they are procuring, and how the processes they have in place adhere to legislation they have enacted themselves.”
In 2015, Supermax was awarded part of a £320m to £375m contract to supply gloves to the NHS. In April 2020, the company then won an individual contract for £311m, awarded without tender due to emergency pandemic regulations. Criticisms of the company’s labour standards were well known when, in December 2021, they won a share of the £6bn NHS Supply Chain framework agreement.
“It’s not fair,” says Saroj*, 27. “Instead of supporting these Malaysian companies, the UK should support workers who say they have been abused in the past and are being abused currently.”
According to Resham, after “official deductions” for food, accommodation and bills, as well as “unofficial deductions”, such as the haircut fine, he would be left with about £130 each month – well under half of his salary. As well as salary cuts, Resham claims he experienced detention and physical assault for speaking out about conditions, such as the low-quality food, the cost of which was deducted from their salaries.