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Letter: To the UK Government in response to the BBC Panorama investigation

Letter: To the UK Government in response to the BBC Panorama investigation

Letter: To the UK Government in response to the BBC Panorama investigation

On Monday, 7 November, the BBC Panorama team released a programme with shocking but not surprising revelations about purchasing practices in Boohoo HQ. Leicester garment workers have been sounding the alarm for the crisis they are facing, so we welcome the media attention on this issue. 

In response, 35 trade unions, labour rights organisations and academics wrote to the UK government calling for urgent action.

We believe fashion brands’ whole business model puts suppliers under unsustainable strain to deliver ever-lower prices and ever quicker speed. This drives exploitative behaviour with workers paying the ultimate price, while brands outsource responsibility to suppliers.  

Here in the UK we have a chance to create a blueprint for a different industry, but we need a real commitment from UK brands and we need action from the government. Leicester garment workers deserve good jobs and fair wages.

We need the UK government to support a more ethical business. Only effective regulation that covers both brands’ purchasing practices and comprehensive supply chain responsibility can stem the race to the bottom and begin to build a fairer garment industry.

7th November 2023

Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister

Kevin Hollinrake, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business

Margaret Beels, Director of Labour Market Enforcement

cc: Peter Soulsby, Mayor of Leicester City Council

cc: Philip Dunne, Environmental Audit Committee

cc: Human Rights at Work Joint Committee

  

Ref: Urgent Action Needed for Leicester Garment Workers and Recommendations for long term sustainable garment industry in the UK.

 

The most recent BBC Panorama programme on 6th November provides a snapshot into the ongoing exploitation of workers and the lack of oversight in fashion company supply chains in the UK. The investigation highlights the continued unfair and abusive purchasing practices which squeeze suppliers on prices and lead times. In turn this impacts worker who are underpaid, harassed and forced into insecure jobs.  The past decade has seen numerous reports detailing similar practices in Leicester garment factories, and other factories both in the UK and internationally. The situation was also investigated during the 2019 Environmental Audit Committee investigation into Fast Fashion and concerns were raised in Parliament in December 2020.

 

Alleged abuses within the garment industry in Leicester share many characteristics of the global exploitation of workers in fashion brand supply chains globally. Boohoo is not alone in failing workers in its supply chain – cases of abuse are found wherever big brands manufacture. These abuses include furlough fraud, modern slavery, abusive working conditions, widespread wage theft and the exploitation of vulnerable workers. Continued use of unfair purchasing practices drives illegal employment practices, and there needs to be action to effectively improve the enforcement of labour rights and stop persistent unfair purchasing practices.

 

For full text and list of signatories, please see the letter below

Press release: Leicester garment workers rally in fight for decent jobs

Press release: Leicester garment workers rally in fight for decent jobs

Press release: Leicester garment workers rally in fight for decent jobs

Image: @ReelNews

 

For immediate release: 1 October 2023

 

 

  • Hundreds of workers protested job losses in Leicester garment industry.

  • Suppliers and workers report significant drop in work coming from fashion brands.
  • Garment workers demand brands “take responsibility” and commit to decent jobs in Leicester amidst economic crisis.

Around 500 workers in the garment industry gathered in Leicester’s Spinney Hill Park on Sunday, 1 October to protest the worsening conditions workers are facing amid factory closures in the city. They were joined by labour rights campaigners and trade unionists. This was the first time workers had gathered to publicly protest their situation, but workers said they were ‘ready to speak’.

 

Suppliers have warned that fashion brands sourcing garments in the city are demanding price reductions, often on orders of clothing already made and delivered, which is making businesses unviable. In turn, garment workers in Leicester report significant reductions in hours and factory closures, increasing pressure on already low paid workers on the frontline of the cost of living crisis. 40% of children in Leicester are living in poverty, including those where parents are in work.

 

Garment workers are calling on fashion brands to take urgent measures to support the industry in Leicester. They want brands to commit to orders from local suppliers with decent wages and standards safeguarded in the contract price, and for a long-term commitment to the area. At the rally, women spontaneously spoke from the crowd to express their anger and frustration at the lack of work as well as the discrimination they face. Women spoke of being given unpaid trial shifts, zero predictability of the amount of work they’d be offered and the struggle to access services and support without speaking English.

 

A Leicester garment worker said: “Brands should take responsibility and commit to orders in Leicester. I know that the factories here have been running for many years. I speak to other workers who have been working in this industry for 20+ years. This is the time when workers are in need of work the most because of the cost of living being so high but instead the factories are slowly closing one by one. Thousands of workers are dependent on working in the factories in Leicester and most of us are migrant workers who have moved to the UK because of our suffering and for a better future ahead. 

 

We want factories to stay open and busy, we want improved working conditions and better workplaces with correct rules and regulations and factories that look after workers rights and pay national minimum wage, holiday, and sick pay.

 

Dominique Muller, UK Policy Lead at Labour Behind the Label, said: “It is high time for UK fashion brands to accept they are responsible for the present crisis garment workers are facing in Leicester. We’ve been here before: during the pandemic revelations about the industry in Leicester forced brands to take measures to improve the treatment of workers. But once public scrutiny moved on, all that remained were vague and aspirational pledges towards a more ethical industry. 3 years later, we see they have failed to live up to their promises. 

 

If brands are serious about building a fairer, more sustainable industry, they must commit to it. They must adopt an ethical sourcing strategy which includes assessing the working conditions of workers in their supply chain and making improvements. In this case, it means committing to UK suppliers and supporting workers in obtaining decent work. The workers who have given brands years of their labour and millions in profits deserve nothing less.

 

ENDS

 

Notes for editors

 

For media enquiries:

  • maya@labourbehindthelabel.org //+447491669231
  • dominique@labourbehindthelabel.org // +447596098399

 

Images available here. Please credit @ReelNews when using.

 

Kaenat Issufo, Community Engagement Lead at Labour Behind the Label, is available for interviews on Wednesday mornings.

 

Labour Behind the Label cannot provide translation services for journalists. 

 

  • Boohoo demands retrospective discounts from suppliers: 

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2023/jun/05/leicester-garment-makers-manufacturers-fast-fashion-brands

 

 


2020 Labour Behind the Label report, ‘Boohoo & Covid-19: The people behind the profits’: https://labourbehindthelabel.org/report-boohoo-covid-19-the-people-behind-the-profit/

Garment workers deserve good jobs in Leicester

Garment workers deserve good jobs in Leicester

GARMENT WORKERS IN LEICESTER DESERVE GOOD JOBS 

Leicester’s garment sector is in crisis, as a growing number of fast-fashion brands are forcing through discounts, making last-minute cancellations and imposing financial penalties. 

The Guardian reported in June that brands including Boohoo and Frasers Group were forcing discounts on suppliers. Consequently, factories are closing down, resulting in workers losing jobs or having seriously reduced hours. We estimate that the number of factories in Leicester has halved since 2020, from 1,000 factories to now less than 500.

Generations of Leicester garment workers have made clothes for the world with skill and with pride.  

When times are tough, fashion brands use their power to demand lower prices and push factories to closure.  

Whether it’s Covid-19 or the cost of living crisis, it is garment workers who are left to pay the price.  

We all deserve safe conditions at work, job security and a wage that allows us to lead full lives and take good care of our families.  

By signing our petition for decent work for garment workers in Leicester, you join our call to UK fashion brands to take responsibility for the workers who make their profits.

There are no worker rights to fight for if there are no jobs. Brands must commit to proving sustainable jobs for workers in Leicester.   

Leicester workers deserve good jobs! 

No more race to the bottom – fashion brands must commit to their workers! 

Decent work and fair pay is our right. 

 

Garment workers deserve good jobs!

The fashion industry makes huge profits on the back of garment workers. Yet they are paid the least and have the least job security. In Leicester, fashion brands are asking suppliers for discounts and cancelling orders, which has led to closures and a drop in hours for hundreds of workers. When times are tough, fashion brands use their power to demand lower prices and push factories to closure.
Whether it’s Covid-19 or the cost of living crisis, it is garment workers who are left to pay the price.
We all deserve safe conditions at work, job security and a wage that allows us to lead full lives and take good care of our families.
We call on fashion brands to recognise the vital role Leicester’s workers play to build their profits, and commit to good sustainable jobs in Leicester.

%%your signature%%

2,713 signatures

     

Are you a member of a trade union? Do you want to do more? Click here for our solidarity motion we’d love for you to take to your TU branch!

First lesson: do the right thing!  #TESCOBACKTOSCHOOL

First lesson: do the right thing! #TESCOBACKTOSCHOOL

it’s time for tesco to settle with the vk garment workers – tell them now!

 This action involves you using your social media accounts to share one of the below images and tag @tesco to say that they must settle the lawsuit with VK Garment workers and pay them for the years of suffering. 

Instructions: 

  1. Choose a campaign image below, and save it to your phone – you hold on the image and look for Download or Save,  and download it. It’s important to do this as you will need to attach the image to your tweet 🙂
  2. Click on the button to open up a suggested tweet (you need to be logged in to Twitter),
  3. Add the image
  4. Send the tweet!

Not on twitter? Tag on instagram or facebook instead

 

What you need to do:

1. Choose an image from the ones above, then click on it to save or download (this will work differently on different devices – try right clicking on a computer, and click and hold on a phone)

2. Go to instagram or facebook and create a new post, selecting the image you downloaded from the selection above

3. Put this text into your caption:

Play time is over. It’s time for @Tescofood to take responsibility, settle with the VK Garment workers and pay them. They profited from forced labour, now they need to take action. #TescoBackToSchool

4. Then tag the photo with these accounts:

@Tescofood

@labourbehindthelabel

@cleanclothescampaign

 

Finally, have you already sent your letter to Tesco and Intertek’s CEOs? It’s easy to do with our 1-click tool here!

 

Megan Rapinoe, help us get justice for Nike workers!

Megan Rapinoe, help us get justice for Nike workers!

megan rapinoe – help us get justice For nike WORKERS

Adidas workers around the world protesting

We are calling on Megan Rapinoe to use her voice as a social justice activist and a hero to so many women around the world. Help us get justice for Nike workers!

 

IWhen the US women’s football team won the World Cup in 2019 its players were also suing their employer. Fans chanted “equal pay” from the stands of the stadium as the team secured its victory. The team’s primary sponsor, Nike, released an ad celebrating the victory and supporting the players’ demands. Three years later, the women won their fight and are going into the 2023 World Cup on equal terms to men.  

The women of Violet Apparel/Ramatex have been fighting since 2020 to receive the wages and bonuses they were denied after being suddenly sacked at the height of the pandemic. These women also need Nike’s support: they need Nike to pay up or pressure their cash-rich supplier Ramatex to do so.

 

This year’s Women’s FIFA World Cup is a celebration of the achievements of womens’ football. Help us win for garment workers too. 

 

 

“Dear Nike,

We have never met. We only contributed to your wealth.

We really do not understand why Nike, an international company, which always speaks so much about its social responsibility and which makes billions of dollars in profit each year has not taken responsibility for our severance.  ”

Former Violet Apparel workers, Cambodia

Adidas workers around the world protesting

Sign to call on megan rapinoe’s support NOW