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1 Oct 2020

Thulsi Narayanasamy, Reuters

Commentary: Boohoo review highlights worrying gaps in UK worker protections

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"OPINION: Boohoo report highlights worrying gaps in UK worker protections", 1 October 2020

After years of exposés about the abusive working conditions in Boohoo’s Leicester supply chain, an independent review - commissioned by the company - has now confirmed what many labour rights advocates have long known: the serial allegations are “well founded and substantially true”.

The review... provides damning evidence senior Boohoo staff were aware of these labour abuses exposed in June this year despite their strenuous denial to the contrary.

... A share price jump of 16% shows that Boohoo has been rewarded for publishing a report revealing how bad its supply chain issues are.

It’s a perverse vote of confidence which labour rights advocates see as dangerously unfounded and premature, with long-suffering workers once again abandoned.

Reports of poor working conditions in Leicester’s factories have been well documented over the last decade... And if Leicester's working conditions appear to be synonymous with Boohoo, it’s because around 80% of factories there produce exclusively for the brand - a rare, near monopoly over suppliers.

Understanding the details of Boohoo’s commercial practices - the rock-bottom prices Boohoo enforces through aggressive squeezing of suppliers it has the whip hand over - and how these directly affect workers was outside the limited scope of the investigation.

Some civil society groups declined to participate in the inquiry due to fears the narrow remit would lead to a falsely simplistic picture of how the company can improve, with the root causes of exploitative working conditions effectively ignored. They have been proven right.

Yet the report still points to how the internal culture fostered these practices...