Press release: Leicester garment workers rally in fight for decent jobs
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.”
Notes for editors
For media enquiries:
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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:
- Significant closures in Leicester: https://www.drapersonline.com/insight/analysis/leicester-manufacturers-the-uk-will-have-no-textile-industry-soon
- 2022 survey on working conditions in Leicester’s garment industry: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/jun/13/poor-working-conditions-persist-in-leicester-garment-factories-finds-survey
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/