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Subject: Garment workers in Leicester factories subjected to unsafe working conditions during COVID-19 pandemic (something along these lines)
Hello. I am writing in regards to a recent report released by Labour Behind the Label, highlighting the poor working conditions garment workers in Leicester have faced while making clothes for Boohoo, during the pandemic. Harrowing findings from the report include:
- Workers pressured to continue working during lockdown, due to continued orders.
- Workers sick with COVID pressured to continue working, or face losing their job.
- Workers wishing to isolate denied pay.
- Workers forced to work in factories with no social distancing, PPE, or sanitising stations, and little attempt by Boohoo to ensure compliance with COVID guidelines.
- Factories pressured to continue production or even increase production, to keep up with new orders.
- Furlough fraud by factory management, denying workers their pay.
It is very concerning to see that the government has taken very slow steps to address the ongoing exploitation of workers in the UK garment industry, despite the issue being repeatedly brought to its attention. In this current context, it is particularly shocking that the government and local authorities did nothing to ensure factories in Leicester were following government guidelines, with no spot inspections undertaken, and instead, reliance on companies and factories to self-regulate themselves. This inaction, alongside the government’s slow lockdown response and lack of regulation, has put workers at severe risk. Moreover, by continuing its cruel hostile environment policy, the government has made it near impossible for the predominantly migrant labour force in the industry to speak out about their conditions, without fear of government backlash, due to their immigration status.
Ultimately, the government must recognise that the situation is not only the result of some unscrupulous suppliers, but is an inevitable outcome of the current fast fashion business model. Boohoo must be held accountable for their sourcing and purchasing practices, which incentivise and enable continued wage theft and unsafe working conditions. There must be regulation and severe consequences for brands who continue to depend on the systematic exploitation of its workers to make its profits.
There is no reason why a worker should be paid £2-£3 pounds an hour, working in unsafe conditions, while the CEO receives a £1.04m pay-out, sitting in the comfort of his own home.
I would like to know what you will be doing to ensure the following immediate demands from Labour Behind the Label are met:
- All Boohoo sales and production must be suspended by the local authorities right away pending investigation into safety measures and reports of fraud at its supplier factories.
- All workers affected – regardless of employment status should receive full pay while work is suspended.
- Boohoo’s purchasing practices and costing models must be scrutinised to assess if they enable suppliers to pay the minimum wage.
- HSE inspections in Leicester garment factories must be undertaken to uncover unsafe working conditions. Indeed, the HSE must restart proactive inspections in all UK industries and occupations.
- Leicester garment factories must be investigated immediately for wage theft, denial of benefits and modern slavery conditions – ensuring proper care and financial support is given to any victims of modern slavery.
- The local authorities should create a special helpline in the city for workers with fast track furlough/full pay direct to workers.
- The government should immediately suspend the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds” conditions on public health grounds for the duration of the outbreak, as recommended by the Work and Pensions Select Committee.
- The UK government must ensure that there is mandatory regulation of safeguards for ensuring COVID-19 safety measures which include penalties for non-compliance.