shares his story
Ashok is a former worker from a Missguided factory in Leicester. This is his story of how he came to work in the UK.
Hi, my name is Ashok, 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.
Fast fashion brand Missguided went into administration in May 2022 leaving a wake of unpaid debts to suppliers and workers owed wages. Ashok 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…