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Call out: Could you become a Trustee?

Call out: Could you become a Trustee?

 CALL OUT: 
 Could you become
 a trustee?  

Applications now open for new trustee recruitment 2022

We are recruiting trustees

The Labour Behind the Label Trust are currently welcoming applications for new trustees. We are open to applications from anyone with a passion for changing the fashion industry for the better. You could be a trade unionist, a person from the media or the world of fashion, or be a current or ex-garment worker. People from all backgrounds are welcome to apply.

We are particularly interested in applications from those with experience working with funding groups, major donor fundraising and agencies, and those who can help us to develop stronger community links in Leicester, home to the largest garment-producing hub in the UK.

Find out more by downloading the person spec,  and send your submission in before 20th December 2022. 

About you

 

We are striving for LBL to be more representative of the garment workers we serve, most of whom are people of colour from the global South. This means we particularly welcome applications from people with lived experiences of racism and/or migration.

There are several additional communities under-represented among LBL trustees at present, including but not limited to, trans and non-binary people and those with disabilities. As a course of positive action to improve representation in our team, we actively encourage applications from these under-represented groups.

 

 

Pakistan: Union busting at International Textile factory

Pakistan: Union busting at International Textile factory

 Pakistan:
 Union Busting 
 At International 
 Textile Factory 

Workers from a towel and linen supplier in Karachi are fighting for their rights after being dismissed for taking part in union activities

Workers from a towel, linen and apparel supplier in Pakistan are fighting for their jobs after being dismissed for taking part in union activities.

The factory, called International Textile in the Korangi Industrial Area of Karachi, Pakistan produces for international hotel chains including Marriott and Accor, the hotel linen brand Standard Textile, and UK company Marks & Spencer.

In October 2021, 25 workers were illegally dismissed for their participation in union activities and for demanding their legal rights, in clear violation of their freedom of association. These workers had recently participated in union organising at the factory relating to underpayment of wages and benefits. Following a worker-led protest demanding their jobs back, 18 of the workers were reinstated but the 7 workers who were leading union organising in the factory did not get their jobs back. A further worker was dismissed for unionising in January. These 8 workers appear to have been blacklisted by International Textile for their union organising and are unable to find any jobs in other factories.  

All of the fired workers were employed as ‘contractors’ through the labour agent (which is illegal), but the factory say that because they weren’t direct employees their reinstatement isn’t the factory’s responsibility.

Widespread labour violations in the factory led to worker unionization efforts. These violations included non-payment of the double rate for overtime, non-payment of double overtime rate for working on gazetted holidays, forced overtime beyond legal limits, pay discrimination against women workers and general underpayment of wages.

The workers have started a court case demanding their rights and jobs back, but this is slow and the workers are stuck without income while the court processes are delayed.

The union, NTUF, is demanding that International Textile respect workers’ rights defined by local and international laws, and ensure that the 8 workers be reinstated with back pay for wages and benefits covering the period since their dismissal. They are further urging International Textile to enter into dialogue with NTUF to address the other documented labour rights violations, and to negotiate the terms of the workers’ return.

We have contacted brands in this case but no resolution has yet been reached.

Spotlight on Pakistan's Labour Contractors

Many workers in Pakistan are employed via labour contractors – recruiters and employers who supply workers to big factory operations. Under the Sindh Factories Act 2015 this set up is illegal, yet the use of contracted labour is commonplace in Pakistan. 

The benefit to suppliers of using labour contractors to provide a percentage of their workforce is that suppliers can keep workers at one step remove and avoid some financial and legal duties towards them as full employees. This includes dismissing workers cheaply when they don’t need full factory capacity, and also dismissing workers who they see as undesirable in their factories, such as those who unionise… 

This illegal yet commonplace tactic has led to low unionisation rates – with precarious work and fewer rights many workers find the risk of organising is too great. This case at International Textile is just one of many where worker organising has been eliminated through what seems to be a mundane contract dispute. The importance of the fight of these workers will have an impact on many. If they win or lose, the union see their case as setting a precedent as to whether suppliers will be allowed in the future to undermine freedom of association through labour contracting methods. 

Action Update: Volume 34

Action Update: Volume 34

 

Find out what Labour Behind the Label have been up to in our bi-annual Action Update.

It’s a summer of protest! In this issue, you can read about our campaign for justice alongside Leicester suppliers and garment workers following the collapse of fashion brand Missguided. We are also celebrating a campaign win after Thai workers from the Brilliant Alliance factory won $8.3 million in a landmark severance settlement. There are updates on our IKEA and Matalan actions, urgent cases and much more.

Read it here: Action Update: Volume 34

 

UK Industry: Leicester garment worker tells his story

UK Industry: Leicester garment worker tells his story

 UK Industry:
 Missguided Worker 
 shares his story 

A former worker from a Missguided factory in Leicester shares his story of how he came to work in the UK.

I am 28 years of age. I work in one of the garment factories in the UK and I live in Leicester.

I came from India few years ago. In India I live in Moti Daman a place in Gujarat near Mumbai. When I was in India, I heard many stories of the UK. How you can earn so much money, there are very nice houses, people are very nice, the government supports you in every way, free health care, free education, you can find jobs easily and can save a lot of money, buy so many things like a brand-new mobile within a month, designer clothes, watches, perfumes and living a life of a King.

It made me dream about going to the UK and living my life in the best way possible. I saw when people use to come back home from UK, they use to bring many presents, such as clothes, perfumes, luxury item, watches, chocolates, and lots of money. They always said how wonderful UK is and how much money they earned and how successful they became.

I tried to get my passport and visa sorted to come to the UK desperately. My parents sold many valuable items such as Gold & Land, which my father worked hard to have all his life. They were also in the hope that if I came to the UK I can earn money and send home and this way whatever lost can be returned and have a lot more.

Being the only son all the responsibility of looking after my parents was mine. I have 3 younger sisters to marry and, in our culture, we have to pay dowry, without this no one would accept my sisters hand in marriage.

When I came in the UK, I only had an option to come to Leicester as my relatives live here and can support me for short time until I find work and I settle. I knew I could only ask there help for max 2 weeks and I started hunting for work ASAP. Straight away it hit me that the biggest issue I will face is language barrier. Wherever I went I couldn’t communicate and when someone is unable to communicate it becomes same like a person who is mute. I started realising that I am so disabled in this country. I felt I was in need all the time.

Cont. in second column.

Missguided crisis

Fast fashion brand Missguided went into administration in May 2022 leaving a wake of unpaid debts to suppliers and workers owed wages. The worker from this story was a victim of this crisis and is owed money.

Labour Behind the Label have been campaigning for the Missguided workers who are owed wages to be paid, including holding demonstrations alongside workers outside the offices of their administrators, and their investors. You can sign the petition to Missguided in solidarity.

The relatives suggested to find work at a factory as that is the only place you will be able to find work without any qualification or skills etc. I thought it was a great opportunity to find work and start working towards my dream of living like a King. I straight away realised that this job doesn’t require skills because you just must work as a donkey without any communication.

You are expected to start work at 7am and finish at 7pm, at first I had no idea about minimum wage so when I was offered £4ph I was very happy and I calculated that monthly I would receive a lot of money compare to India. Soon reality hit me as I started to realise most of my money was going in paying tax, rent, bills and only very little was left for me which I used for clothes, food, medicines, and other necessities. 

I also realised at first doing a 12-hour shift was not an issue as I needed job and money desperately, but then when I started to get very tired, I realised it’s a long day shift and it started to affect my health. I also became very upset and depress as I was not able to save any money to send back home to pay of my loan and to support my family.

Everyday I use to get calls and messages from my family asking when I will send money? I used to explain my reality here, but they failed to understand and thought I am just enjoying life and spending money for my own leisure. This made me more upset and depress, I lost all the hope and started becoming grumpy and fed up with life.

I started avoiding calls of my family and not replying to their messages, this made me lonelier and more found myself alone to fight this situation. I slowly made some friends at my factory workplace where I learnt many things such as minimum wage, sick pay, holiday pay, and some of my rights as a worker.

This was after working for 5 years for this factory, I lost so much in the meantime and wondered if I knew about this before my life would have been so much easier and better in many ways. I even lost trust from my own family and had to break ties with them. They must be suffering a lot without paying of the loan by me not sending any money to them. This haunts me every night and I can’t sleep. I sometimes think to even commit suicide and end all my troubles and worries.

When I questioned my boss about the rights of workers and how I should be getting paid minimum wage, I started getting excuse such as how the orders are being cancelled by brands and how there is not enough work for everyone, and this could even be the last month of my work.

Just by listening to this I get scared to ask anything to my boss, I just keep my head down and work as I worry that I will lose my job and will not have a roof on my head. I have nowhere to go and no one to support me. I also heard that there is no help for a single person. No benefits from the government no support. I would have to live on streets and beg for money & food.

I am helpless and not sure how long I will be continuing living like this. Do I have any other option? Is there anyone that can help me? I have no idea but for now I am surviving with my struggles…

Press release: Activists call on Boohoo board to give evidence that prices don’t prohibit legal work

Press release: Activists call on Boohoo board to give evidence that prices don’t prohibit legal work

  • Prices paid to Boohoo suppliers called into question as potential barrier to legal wage payments and sustainable growth
  • Activists say Boohoo workers could be owed £125 million in unpaid wages for former illegal pay cases
  • Boohoo Group AGM taking place today will see key challenges raised

Activists are posing key questions [1] to the board of Boohoo Group at their AGM today concerning the prices Boohoo pays to suppliers, and debts owed to workers.

Representatives from the human rights campaign group Labour Behind the Label will raise concerns about the impact of Boohoo’s purchasing practices on the ability of Leicester factory owners to operate legally, turn a profit and invest in their factories.
 
Citing Boohoo’s statements on ‘fair pricing’ for suppliers, activists are requesting that Boohoo publish details of the benchmarks they are using, and whether these prices ensure the minimum wage, or indeed the living wage, is payable under the standards.
 
Questions follow clear evidence that illegal pay of £3.50 / £4 an hour was common in Boohoo suppliers, linked to prices [2]. Evidence is being requested from the board that this situation has been addressed, particularly with regard to aggressive downward pressure on supplier prices.
 
Historic debts owed to workers from Boohoo supplier factories following years of underpayment of the minimum wage are also being raised. Activists say Boohoo could owe over £125 million in illegal underpayment of wages to workers who made their goods over the past 5-year period. The estimate is based on calculations from the British Retail Consortium that garment workers in Leicester at the peak of the illegal pay exposes were collectively being denied £2.1m a week [3].
 
Kaenat Issufo from Labour Behind the Label said: “Mahmud Kamani and the Boohoo board of directors need to own up to truth that Boohoo’s business model has driven abusive practices in its supply chain. Owning up means changing its purchasing practices, and making right the past wrongs that its business has created. Boohoo should pay the workers making its clothes a living wage and payback the millions in underpaid wages it owes to the workers who created Boohoo’s profits over the past ten years. It’s current approach of giving charity is demeaning and the community where I live is suffering as a result. Workers need rights not handouts.”
 
Some further details being requested concerning the brand’s commitment to building sustainable relationships with Leicester suppliers in the light of recent withdrawals from over 100 suppliers in the city [4].
 
ENDS

Notes to editors: 

  • Labour Behind the Label is a campaign that works to improve conditions and empower workers in the global garment industry.
  • The Boohoo Group PLC Annual General Meeting is being held at Boohoo’s factory at 301 Thurmaston Lane, Leicester, LE4 9UX on Friday, 17 June 2022 at 14:00

[1] https://labourbehindthelabel.org/boohoo-group-plc-agm-questions-2022

[2] Allison Levitt QC who was commissioned to conduct an internal investigation in allegations of illegal pay in  Boohoo Group suppliers found illegally low rates of pay at £3.50/ £4 per hour to be substantiated, and that directors knew of the seriousness of the issues but failed to act. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/sep/25/boohoo-report-reveals-factory-fire-risk-among-supply-chain-failings
 
[3] In 2020, the British Retail Consortium calculated that workers in Leicester were being underpaid £2.1m a week. https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/eastmidlands/news/2041936-leicester-textile-workers-owed-over-27m-says-report.
This had grown from 2015 estimates, where Unversity of Leicester research put this underpayment at around £1m a week. https://amp.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/sustainable-fashion-blog/2015/feb/27/made-in-britain-uk-textile-workers-earning-3-per-hour
 
Boohoo was sourcing 50-80% of Leicester’s total output between 2015 and 2021. It is therefore a conservative estimate to assume that £50m in underpayment of wages per year, should result in Boohoo owing £125m in over a 5-year period.
 
[4] https://www.cityam.com/boohoo-cuts-ties-with-hundreds-of-suppliers-following-leicester-factory-scandal/

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