Oct 13, 2020
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BRC highlights exploitation in Leicester factories

Oct 13, 2020

The British Retail Consortium has written to the Home Secretary to demand urgent action over labour exploitation in Leicester after claiming garment factory workers are collectively being denied over £2.1 million in wages a week.

This is the second time the retail organisation has urged the government to address the issue, following a letter signed by MPs, retailers and NGOs sent in July.

The BRC claimed that exploited workers have been denied £27 million in lost earnings since the first letter, with over 10,000 garment factory workers being paid an average of £3.50 an hour (the National Minimum Wage is £8.72).

"The BRC has repeatedly called on Government to do more to prevent labour exploitation in the UK garment manufacturing industry. Despite numerous reports in the media, and a previous letter to the Home Secretary signed by over 50 MPs & Peers and more than 40 retailers, investors and NGOs, we have not seen any significant action from Government to bring this injustice to an end. All the while garment workers are robbed of tens of millions of pounds in wages,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium.

The trade body is proposing a ‘Fit-to-Trade- licensing scheme that  “would protect workers from forced labour, debt bondage and mistreatment, ensuring payment of National Minimum Wage, VAT, PAYE, National Insurance, holiday pay and health and safety”. 

Lisa Cameron MP and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Textiles & Fashion, said: “Right now, we have an opportunity to create a more ethical and sustainable fashion manufacturing industry in the UK, providing better jobs and boosting the economy at a time when it is needed most. It is vital the Home Secretary takes action to introduce a licensing scheme for UK garment manufacturers and puts the rights of workers at the heart of the industry. Without urgent action thousands more people face exploitation.”

A Home Office spokesperson told Sky News they had received the letter and that perpetrators will face the full force of the law “if  evidence comes to light through the work of our new specialist Taskforce”. Led by the Gangmasters Labour and Abuse Authority, the taskforce is looking into allegations of unsafe working conditions and exploitation of workers in Leicester garment factories and has conducted a number of unannounced visits at commercial premises in the city.

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