UK Garment Industry

Reports of illegal wages and exploitation are common in the UK garment

Why do we need transparency?

The UK garment industry is centred around a number of hubs. The largest is based in Leicester, with around 1,000-1,500 factory units. For several years, numerous media reports have detailed illegal practices in UK-based garment factories that are linked to big brands. As a result, many brands have switched to sourcing elsewhere. Only a few remain.

The largest of these is Boohoo and its sister brands which dominate the local industry.

Industry sources state that it is impossible to produce the units/garments requested by Boohoo for the product price while still paying workers the national minimum wage of £8.72 per hour.

Wages as low as £2-3 per hour are allegedly commonplace in Leicester factories supplying Boohoo and other online retailers.

Workers are vulnerable to exploitation

Most garment workers in Leicester are from minority ethnic groups, and around a third were born outside the UK. These workers are vulnerable to abuse as a result of their immigration status, language skills and support systems.

There have also been numerous allegations of links to modern slavery and trafficking. Lack of documented resident status or entitlement to work means that many workers are willing to accept poor conditions in exchange for a job, even one without formal contracts or minimum wages. This also contributes to a situation where workers are unable – or unwilling – to speak out about labour rights abuses for fear of being deported or otherwise investigated. 

The situation is compounded by the UK Home Office hostile environment policy, which focuses on reducing immigration figures by restricting freedoms for people who are deemed to be in the UK illegally.

In practice, this targets and punishes migrant workers as opposed to redressing exploitation and promoting a systematic change of labour practices. 

Take Action

  1. Email your MP and ask that the government investigate purchasing practices of big brands, and support for workers who have been exploited. Use our template letter to start your campaign. (Find your MP)
  2. Boohoo accounts for 75 – 80% of production in Leicester garment factories. Sign our petition calling on Boohoo to change their purchasing practices and go transparent.  
  3. Big brands need to protect all the workers in their supply chains and they need to pay suppliers enough money to pay workers a living wage. Sign our petition calling on big brands to protect all the workers in their supply chains during the COVID-19 crisis.

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Urgent Action Needed for Leicester Garment Workers

In response to ongoing reports of abusive conditions in the Leicester garment Industry, and the Government’s recent announcement of a cross-government task force, Labour Behind the Label, along with key stakeholders has issued the following public letter to the Rt Hon Priti Patel, Secretary of State for the Home Department; Rt Hon Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Rt Hon Boris Johnson, Prime Minister.