Garment workers deserve good jobs in Leicester

Garment workers deserve good jobs in Leicester


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.

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23 signatures = 2% of goal


Paid NEXT to nothing

Paid NEXT to nothing

 Workers Paid NEXT 
 to nothing
in covid 
 factory closure 
 fight back 

When the pandemic hit, brands stopped ordering from factories and many shut down without paying workers. The Wai Full workers are continuing to fight for their pay and severance. This is their case. 

In January 2021, mid-pandemic, workers at Wai Full Textiles in Cambodia started to be laid off. The factory officially closed in May 2021, and workers were paid a small sum to cover their annual leave, but $500,000 was left outstanding.

Female-led union, CATU from Cambodia, contacted members in the factory and launched a campaign for justice, calling for the workers to get their pay outs. Wai Full Garments, the company, went bankrupt and dissolved all its assets and, after some months, its parent company in Hong Kong also dissolved. The workers decided their only option was to reach out to the brands. 

Superdry, NEXT and ASOS were contacted by LBL on behalf of the workers in Autumn 2021. A long discussion ensued, with meetings with the brands to verify the facts, to hear from the union, to explore legal options. By winter 2022, the brands asked for a confidential sum at which workers would settle and discussed how to get this to workers. This option was discussed also at length. Yet as a final kick in the teeth, at the end of this long process, NEXT and Superdry turned around to say they didn’t think it was their duty to pay. 

We are now launching a campaign to call on NEXT and Superdry to change their minds and contribute towards the sum that Wai Full workers are owed.

While this campaign may be about one small group of workers and their fight for justice, this underdog struggle is also emblematic of the huge COVID injustice that left women of colour at the bottom of supply chains globally, owed billions in wages and legal pay outs. While fashion minimised its losses and moved on, workers were left to pay the cost. This small case is symptomatic of the wider struggle for covid justice. 

Why should brands pay?

Fashion companies choose to make clothes at arms length – in factories where they aren’t the employer but do get all the benefits of cheap labour and low regulations. So when things go wrong, can they simply wash their hands of the issues? Human rights guiding principles for business suggest that brands need to show that they have made every effort to protect people who make their goods from human rights violations, and take steps to remedy issues where their business has caused or contributed towards that harm. Here is the difficult part – as there isn’t financial transparency the workers don’t have the financial data to show that by pulling out of a factory, the group of brands in this case ’caused or contributed’ towards the factory closing.

To us it is fairly clear that in the pandemic when they stopped ordering this contributed towards the factory’s decision to close and to not pay its workers. But because we can’t show it, brands say they don’t have a duty to provide remedy to the workers. Yet why should the workers be left with nothing? We believe the brands should at the very least contribute towards the money owed to the workers as a statement of principle. Workers should be paid their legally owed pay and severance for the duration of their employment. 

In the end, if the brands don’t pay, the workers will be left with nothing, and this isn’t right. They should pay because it is the right thing to do.

Statement on the crisis faced by garment workers in Sri Lanka

Statement on the crisis faced by garment workers in Sri Lanka

Labour Behind the Label stands in solidarity with workers in Sri Lanka against the government’s reckless plans to drastically reduce labour law protections. Read our statement below.

Sri Lanka’s garment workers have been bearing the brunt of the financial and political crisis that has haunted the country for over 1.5 years, with high inflation and currency devaluation pushing workers into poverty while the government and employers repress their right to organise. With the government now rushing through procedurally unsound changes to labour laws, and domestic debt restructuring measures targeting workers’ social security funds, garment workers in Sri Lanka will be deprived of even more basic rights and protections against precarity. National and international labour rights organisations appeal to the government of Sri Lanka to respect tripartite processes and refrain from targeting workers’ social security funds as part of debt restructuring measures.

Labour law

The government’s attempt to overhaul existing labour laws into a unified labour code has from the outset ignored established tripartite consultation mechanisms and bypassed other existing democratic processes. Draft legislation, for example, has not been made available in all the country’s official languages. Beyond the problematic process, which disregards the rights of trade unions as well as minorities, we are concerned that the proposed unified labour law seeks to eliminate the rights and protection of workers in the interests of creating a more exploitable labour force. By removing international minimum standards such as the eight hour working day, paid overtime entitlements and protections against arbitrary dismissal, allowing employers to force employees to work for four weeks straight without days off, reducing annual leave entitlements, and weakening freedom of association and collective bargaining rights, this legislation will increasingly leave workers at the mercy of their employers, without any recourse.

We believe that any revision of Sri Lanka’s labour laws requires a thorough consultative process, in which the voices of workers and their elected trade union representatives are heard. This could be realised by the government appointing a credible independent commission with the participation of experts such as the International Labour Organisation. Any consultation process must include the four trade unions which were unlawfully removed from the National Labour Advisory Council in June 2023.

Anton Marcus, joint secretary of the Free Trade Zones & General Service Employees Union in Sri Lanka says:

The government’s proposals and process for the overhaul of the labour law violate international norms for decent work and threaten to unleash a race to the bottom on labour rights. Only an inclusive, transparent, and democratic process of engagement with the participation of all relevant tripartite stakeholders can lead to results that are acceptable to workers and meet international norms. 

Social security

Workers are additionally concerned about their rights and livelihoods now that the government, in response to the ongoing international debt crisis, has announced a restructuring of domestic debt. The restructuring targets superannuation or pension funds, with the largest among them, the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), representing 2.5 million workers. Workers pay into this fund through deductions from already meagre wages throughout their working lives. Their laboriously built-up retirement funds are now being targeted without any consultation. Moreover, such restructuring does not apply to other treasury bond holders. If workers’ social security funds are not included, the government has threatened to ensure these funds pay the price through other means, such as a tax increase from 14 to 30%.

Singling out superannuation funds, and thereby forcing Sri Lankan workers to foot the bill for a debt crisis for which they are not responsible, is arbitrary and unfair. We support the position of the major trade unions who have requested the Governor of the Central Bank to halt all decision-making and call for a trade union forum to discuss this matter. 

The Clean Clothes Campaign, the Free Trade Zone & General Services Employees Union, the International Union Educational League, Labour behind the Label, Maquila Solidarity Network, and War on Want stand in solidarity with the garment workers of Sri Lanka, a majority of whom are women and migrant workers. Workers took to the streets in protest on 19, 20 and 25 July and we stand with them as they continue to protest and resist the government’s attacks on their basic labour rights and hard-earned social security funds. We urge the government of Sri Lanka and all stakeholders involved, such as employers associations, the IMF and the Central Bank, to ensure workers are not forced to pay the price for the country’s ongoing crisis by

  • Immediately halting the existing labour reform process; 
  • Devising specific, transparent, and consensus-based “terms of reference” for the process of reforms with the participation of all relevant tripartite stakeholders of the world of work such as International Labour Organisation, to come to a reform process that ensures local Labour laws are made consistent with norms of International Labour Standards and Decent Work;
  • Ensuring that international standards are not violated and that such a reform process is carried by a tripartite and democratic process with participation from trade unions, the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) and other key stakeholders. 
  • Reinstating the four trade unions which were unlawfully removed from the National Labour Advisory Council in June 2023; 
  • Halting the targeting of EPF/ETF (pension funds) for debt restructuring without adequate engagement with the workers and their representatives. 
  • Ensuring that workers do not have to bear a ‘disproportionate’ burden of the economic crisis and that their rights are respected.

Bangladeshi garment workers need a wage hike

Bangladeshi garment workers need a wage hike

 Bangladeshi   garment workers   need a significant 
 wage hike 


Labour Behind the Label is campaigning in support of a wage increase in Bangladesh and the Bangladeshi unions’ 23,000 taka minimum wage demand.

For the first time in five years, the Bangladeshi government has formed a Wage Board to revise the minimum wage for the country’s ready made garment sector, which employs roughly 4 million workers.

The current minimum wage of 8,000 taka (roughly £57 a month) was already insufficient for a decent living when it came into force in 2019. Since then, workers have had to endure the additional pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent high inflation without seeing their wages increase at all.

A new monthly minimum wage demand of 23,000 taka (£164 approximately) has been calculated based on an extensive cost of living study done by the Bangladesh Institute for Labour Studies and has been unanimously supported by trade unions in the country as well as the IndustriALL global union. Clean Clothes Campaign partners in Bangladesh do not hold seats in the Wage Board, and neither do any other independent trade unions, but they will organise local campaign actions to voice this demand.

This year’s minimum wage revision takes place at a difficult time for the Bangladeshi labour rights movement. The recent murder of trade unionist Shahidul Islam is a stark reminder of the incredibly repressive environment in which wage negotiations take place. In the past, the minimum wage revisions led to a shocking amount of turmoil. In 2018 one worker was killed, dozens were left injured and thousands lost their jobs.

Labour Behind the Label stands in solidarity with unions in Bangladesh fighting for a higher and more just minimum wage. We urge all involved parties to respect the right of trade unions to peacefully and collectively campaign for their wage demands.

Why are wages so low?

 The Bangladesh textile industry has long marketed itself based on its low pricing. Fierce competition with other Asian economies, and downward pressure from brands’ purchasing practices, have suppressed wages in Bangladesh year on year. The Bangladesh labour law only requires the wage board to convene once every 5 years. This has led to very slow wage growth. Unionisation rates are also low due to the active suppression of freedom of association, by employers and by state actors. So when unions come to the table their power to achieve change is limited.

A new wage is desperately needed. Official Consumer Price Index inflation rates show an increase in recent months of than 9%. Unofficial predictions however are much more abnormal. Some of the main food prices have increased by nearly 100%. Current average take home pay (around 12800 taka, including overtime) is more than 10% less than the national poverty line.

No Pride in Forced Labour

No Pride in Forced Labour

Last month we launched our public campaign targeting Tesco and Intertek to settle the lawsuit that over 130 migrant garment workers in Thailand have initiated against the brand and its social auditor. Here is a little update.

Why are workers in Thailand suing Tesco and Intertek?

At the end of 2022 the Guardian ran a series of stories on the VK Garment factory and the abuse workers there endured over several years. The pieces are not an easy read.

Between 2017 and 2020 hundreds of migrant garment workers in Thailand were making jeans for Tesco’s F&F brand under horrific conditions. They worked excessively long hours for illegally low pay. Their documents were confiscated, their rights were trampled, they suffered various abuses.

But the VK Garment workers story is a story of organised resistance and workers fighting back. 

When they asked for higher wages and more protections at work, the people whose labour creates Tesco’s profits were summarily dismissed. Yet instead of accepting this injustice, the VK Garment workers called on the support of their union, and together with allies here in the UK they are actually suing both Tesco, and Intertek – the social auditors who helped them avoid responsibility. This is a huge step for these workers, and the potential for the garment industry and workers everywhere should not be underestimated.

Yet we know that the legal system is slow, and workers can’t always expect that they will get justice through the courts. That is why at Labour Behind the Label we’ve been busy putting pressure on ‘Britain’s favourite forced labour supermarket’ Tesco and Intertek to settle this case and pay their workers.

How have we been supporting the VK Garment workers?

As an organisation, we exist to support workers’ struggles everywhere and to enable individuals to demand change in our capacity as people, as members of communities and workplaces, not just as consumers. We know public pressure on brands works and in this case we wanted to remind Tesco that we’re here, that we see and hear the VK Garment workers and we will do all we can to amplify their demands and help them win their fight.

Last month, we challenged Tesco CEO Ken Murphy on his company’s continued reliance on the discredited practice of social auditing that fails to protect workers time and time again. In response, we got platitudes about their complex supply chain system and their commitment to human rights. But VK Garment workers’ human rights were violated continuously in the name of Tesco’s profit margins. The role of social auditing in the garment industry is complex, and often deeply damaging. Instead of more accountability, it offers less by allowing brands to outsource control and ultimately further delay responsibility for taking action. So we won’t accept this meagre concession from Tesco and will continue working to expose Intertek’s role in this case. 

We also couldn’t stand idly by and watch Tesco promote itself as a champion of LGBTQI+ rights while continuing to undermine workers rights and protections. It seems the retailer values human rights so much, they are one of the major sponsors of London Pride.

But what about the rights of those who were putting in 90-hour weeks to finish orders? What about the LGBTQI+ garment workers suffering abuse and poverty wages in their supplier factories? There’s no parade, no floats, no grand commitments for them. 

Pride is a protest. It’s a call to action to actively defend and fight for the rights won – and the rights yet to be won, by marginalised and exploited communities. Pride is a celebration of shared struggles. And Pride ought to be a threat to corporate interests. So, with the help of our trade union friends we took our campaign to the streets of London to remind Tesco that there is No Pride in Forced Labour. You can’t care for the rights of some of your workers while exploiting others. 

We got a very warm reception not just on the trade union bloc – thank you, Unison, ASLEF, GMB and all others, but also from those who have come out to celebrate Pride and watch the parade. It reminded us how important it is to bring demands to the corporations who seek the spotlight to promote their brand through pink-washing. London Pride has a long history of engaging with labour struggles, and it’s a legacy we vow to continue, no matter how many fossil polluters, debt financiers and forced labour producers try and take advantage of it.


What can you do?

So, what’s next? We’ve been told that the legal case proper will get going from October onwards. This means we’ve got the summer left to really pressure Tesco and Intertek into settling. The corporate calendar may have slowed down for the holiday season but remain active on social media in calling the companies out. We will also use this vital campaign to raise more awareness around social auditing as a method of avoiding responsibility.

If you haven’t already, make sure to sign our one-click tool to send a letter to Tesco CEO and Intertek CEO and demand that they settle this case. If you have – why not forward to a friend? Sharing our social media posts, spreading the message and signing up to hear more from Labour Behind the Label is a big boost to the workers – more visibility for them means a higher chance the companies will feel the threat and settle. 


Press Release: Tesco to be grilled on rights abuses in supply chain at AGM mired in scandal

Press Release: Tesco to be grilled on rights abuses in supply chain at AGM mired in scandal

For immediate release: 16 June 2023

Hooks: Tesco Chair steps down at AGM following alleged inappropriate conduct towards female staff; Tesco facing forced labour lawsuit from 130 Burmese garment workers in Thailand factory supplying F&F jeans.


Representatives from the human rights campaign group Labour Behind the Label will today raise concerns that Tesco’s use of social auditing is putting the workers who make their clothes at risk of abuse.

Tesco and social audit firm Intertek are facing a lawsuit brought by 130 Burmese workers who made F&F jeans for Tesco in Thailand [1]. VK Garment workers say they were trapped in forced labour conditions, working 99-hour weeks for illegally low pay, while auditors failed to report abuses workers flagged. Workers are suing Tesco and Intertek for negligence and unjust enrichment in a case bought by the law firm Leigh Day.

At its Annual General Meeting today Labour Behind the Label will ask the Tesco board why they continue to rely on auditing practices which fail to protect workers in their supplier factories, and whether they will be cutting ties with Intertek after its ineffectual audits opened the company up to international legal action.

The scandal-ridden AGM will also see Tesco chair John Allan stand down following accusations of inappropriate behaviour towards female staff. [2] Approximately 80% of garment workers around the world who make clothes for brands like Tesco are women.

Campaigners are questioning how Tesco as a company is protecting women from rights violations, both within their own operations and in global supply chains.

Anna Bryher, Policy Lead for Labour Behind the Label, said:

“Women in garment factories around the world are routinely subject to exploitation and rights abuse. Tesco profited from the VK Garment workers’ exploitation while Intertek stood by and watched, failing to report the abuse they witnessed including threats, fraud, excessive hours and more. Tesco and Intertex must pay VK workers and settle the legal case being brought against them. It’s the least they can do.”

“Social auditing is a multi-million pound industry that provides a fig leaf for abuse in garment factories worldwide [3]. Fashion brands pay social audit firms to provide plausible deniability, while everyone in the industry knows rights abuse is endemic. Social auditing not only fails to identify human rights violations, but also actively undermines human rights protection. The Rana Plaza building which collapsed in Dhaka housed factories where social audits had taken place just months before the disaster, giving green lights to brands where there should have been warnings.”

“Tesco as a company has the opportunity through this case to cut ties with big audit firms like Intertek, and adopt a more transparent, hands on way of monitoring labour rights in factories, that could see active participation in rights protection.”

The full text of the question being put to the Tesco board is available below [4].


Notes for editors

  • Labour Behind the Label is a campaign that works to improve conditions and empower workers in the global garment industry.
  • The Tesco Annual General Meeting will be held in the Heart building of Tesco’s Welwyn Garden City campus on Friday, 15 June at 11.30am.

For media enquiries please contact:

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/dec/18/workers-in-thailand-who-made-ff-jeans-for-tesco-trapped-in-effective-forced-labour

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2023/may/19/tesco-chair-john-allan-steps-down

[3] https://cleanclothes.org/file-repository/figleaf-for-fashion.pdf/view

[4] Question text:

Labour Behind the Label Question concerning Tesco’s approach to social auditing in its garment supplier factories 

In December The Guardian reported that Burmese workers who produced F&F jeans for Tesco in Thailand were trapped in forced labour conditions, working 99-hour weeks for illegally low pay. A lawsuit has been launched by Leigh Day solicitors on behalf of the 130 VK Garment workers, seeking damages from both Tesco, and social auditors Intertek, for alleged negligence and unjust enrichment. Intertek’s role in this case is that its audits failed to identify systematic wage violations, forced labour concerns and fraud, year on year, despite workers saying they flagged issues with auditors. While I won’t ask the board to comment on the lawsuit itself, my question concerns Tesco’s ongoing approach to factory monitoring.

Social auditing has been shown not only to fail to identify human rights violations and function as an expensive fig-leaf, but also to actively undermine human rights protection. Indeed, the Rana Plaza building which collapsed in Dhaka had factories with clear social audits, just months before the disaster, giving green lights to brands where there should have been warnings. Therefore, I’d like to ask the following:

  1. Can the board say whether Tesco is concerned about relying on social auditing as a structure in general to ensure human rights are upheld in its supplier factories given the failures of the system to provide real visibility of labour rights and safety concerns?
  2. Can the board comment on whether Tesco is reconsidering its relationship with the firm Intertek specifically after their social auditing services failed to provide visibility of labour rights violations at VK Garments and opened Tesco up to an international lawsuit?