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UK garment workers 'robbed' of 27 million pounds in wages since July

By Huw Hughes

12 Oct 2020


Garment factory workers in the UK have been “robbed” of over 27 million pounds in wages since July, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The UK trade body and MP Lisa Cameron, who is chair of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for Textiles and Fashion, have penned a letter to home secretary Priti Patel demanding action.

Some 10,000 workers are being paid between 3-4 pounds per hour in factories in Leicester, according to statements in parliament by MP Andrew Bridgen. Based on that, the BRC calculated factory workers have missed out on 27 million pounds in wages since it originally wrote to Patel in July urging action.

The letter, signed by over 50 cross-party MPs and peers as well as 40 retailers, investors and NGOs, called for urgent action from the government to introduce a licensing scheme for garment factories in the UK.

No 'significant action' from the government

The letter proposes a 'Fit-to-Trade' licensing scheme which would “protect workers from forced labour, debt bondage and mistreatment, ensuring payment of National Minimum Wage, VAT, PAYE, National Insurance, holiday pay, and health and safety”.

“The BRC has repeatedly called on the government to do more to prevent labour exploitation in the UK garment manufacturing industry,” said BRC CEO Helen Dickinson. “Despite numerous reports in the media, and a previous letter to the Home Secretary signed by over 50 MPs and Peers and more than 40 retailers, investors and NGOs, we have not seen any significant 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 hope the Home Secretary joins us in this fight.”

The UK’s garment industry has come under increased scrutiny in recent months following controversy over the conditions of employees in Leicester factories creating clothing for fast-fashion giant Boohoo.

An independent review launched by the retailer and concluded last month found “many failings” in its UK supply chain and resulted in the company announcing a number of new measures to improve its suppliers’ working conditions.

Photo credit: Alex Andrews, Pexels