UK: Labour exploitation widespread in Leicester garment factories supplying to high-street & online retailers, reports Financial Times

Author: Sarah O’Connor, Financial Times, Published on: 22 May 2018

"Dark factories: labour exploitation in Britain’s garment industry", 17 May 2018

[N]ew economic forces have started to blow on the embers of Leicester’s clothing industry...

“Speed is our main USP and the UK is as quick as you can get,” [...] founder of online retailer Missguided [said]... Both Boohoo and Missguided source at least half their clothes in the UK...

How is it possible to make cheap clothes in a country where the minimum wage for over-25s is £7.83 an hour? [...]

Part of Leicester’s garment industry has become detached from UK employment law [...] where “£5 an hour is considered the top wage”, even though that is illegal..

Retailers audit their suppliers in Leicester and say they do not work with any that break the law. But unauthorised subcontracting is a problem and factories can present books that look clean because they under-record hours...

All retailers said their orders had been subcontracted to those ­factories without their permission or knowledge...

ETI-member brands [...] created a forensic auditing system for UK suppliers called Fast Forward... New Look alone reduced its UK suppliers by 80 per cent “due to concerns regarding working practices”, a spokesman said...

[Asos] sourcing director Simon Platts says the sector needs investment in infrastructure and training, as well as enforcement and legislation... Missguided has recently joined the ETI too... (It declined requests for comment.) [...]

Boohoo confirmed it was not a member of the ETI but said its ethical trade policy was “based on the ETI base code”...

TK Maxx said it was “committed to operating our business with high standards of ethics”  [...]

[The] director of labour market enforcement [...] published his first strategy last week, devoting a page to Leicester’s garment sector: “While some enforcement action has been undertaken [...], this has clearly not had an effective impact on overall compliance” [also refers to River Island]

Read the full post here

Related companies: ASOS Boohoo Missguided New Look River Island (part of Lewis Trust) TJX TK Maxx (part of TJX)