UK Garment Industry
Leicester – from pandemic boom to cost of living crisis
While UK brands have been outsourcing production for many years in an effort to maximise profits and keep costs down, Leicester remains the main domestic hub where garments are still made by thousands of workers.
After years of investigations uncovering underpayment and abuse, the pandemic was a turning point for the industry with brands – under intense public pressure- finally beginning to address some of the violations workers face.
The current cost of living, however, threatens to undo any progress achieved with big brands supplying from Leicester once again abandoning workers in defence of their profits. Reports from across the sector confirm Boohoo demanding discounts on orders, and orders drying up. This has led to a crisis for garment workers in Leicester with many losing their jobs or having their hours slashed amidst a cost of living crisis.
In moving production elsewhere brands once again put profit over people as they promote a race to the bottom on prices and working conditions.
Workers are paying the price
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.
Unemployment rates in Leicester are higher than the national average, while wages are lower. Often working in the garment industry is the only option for workers, and the growing economic uncertainty and job insecurity in the sector makes workers less likely to press employers for improvements.
Our community outreach work shows garment workers are proud of their labour. They want improvements in their workplace around fair wages, better facilities, no discrimination and accessibility for older workers or those with health needs. However, workers find community, friendship and satisfaction in their work, and they want an industry that treats them better, rather than an exit from the work they are skilled in delivering. They want good jobs in Leicester.
Leicester’s garment sector is in crisis, as brands force through discounts, make last-minute cancellations and impose financial penalties. Sign the petition now to support Leicester garment workers
UK brands must commit to Leicester and provide good jobs for its garment workers
- Brands must commit to sustainable long-term manufacturing in Leicester that takes into account labour costs and invest in skills and facilities
- Brands must ensure purchasing practices allow suppliers to pay workers fairly and operate safe and supportive businesses.
- Brands must work with suppliers and unions to improve access to support for workers, including giving union access and supporting workers’ rights training.
- Brands must operate in a transparent way, including signing the transparency pledge and publishing supplier lists
READ ABOUT OUR CAMPAIGN IN THE PRESS