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Leading UK fashion retailers call for more protection for garment workers

Leading UK fashion retailers including Marks & Spencer, Joules, Asos,
New Look and Next have joined MPs, investors and NGOs in writing a joint
letter to home secretary Priti Patel calling for greater protection for
garment factory workers.

The joint letter, coordinated by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), proposes
the government introduces statutory licensing
of garment factories to ensure they all meet their legal obligations to
employees and protect them from forced labour. It would also ensure payment
of National Minimum Wage, VAT, PAYE, National Insurance, and holiday
pay.

“Unless action is taken now, thousands more people will likely face
exploitation,” the letter notes.

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It follows recent reports that workers at one of Boohoo’s suppliers’
factories in Leicester were being paid 3.50 pounds per hour and were made
to work when sick with Covid-19. Those reports caused the fast-fashion
company’s shares to plummet in recent weeks. The company, which owns brands
including Pretty Little Thing and Nasty Gal, has since launched an
independent review of its UK supply chain.

UK government urged to take action

“The BRC has repeatedly called on Government to take action to prevent
labour exploitation in the UK. Recent reports in the media demonstrate the
urgent need for action before more workers are needlessly taken advantage
of. While there is no silver bullet, licensing is a critical step toward
resolving this issue,” BRC CEO Helen Dickinson said in a statement.

“The public want to know that the clothes they buy have been made by
workers who are respected, valued and protected by the law. Our members
continue to stand firm against labour exploitation, and we hope the home
secretary joins us in the fight to build a more ethical and sustainable
fashion industry.”

MP Lisa Cameron MP, who is chair of the all-party parliamentary group
(APPG) for textiles and fashion, added: “As we emerge from the coronavirus
crisis, we have a huge opportunity to make the UK a world-leading, ethical
fashion and textile manufacturing industry, delivering better,
highly-skilled jobs.

“It is crucial the home secretary seriously considers the urgent need to
implement statutory licensing of garment factory owners and managers to
ensure they are ‘Fit to Trade’. There is vast support for this initiative,
and we need to see urgent action to prevent thousands more people facing
exploitation taking place is some garment factories in the UK.”

Photo credit: Pexels, Artem Bali

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