Leicester’s Cheap Labour

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(Photo from : Huffington Post)

Channel 4’s Dispatches uncovered the truths behind Britain’s cheap clothing. Factories supplying your favourite clothes high street brands such as River Island, New Look and online retailers Boohoo and Missguided have been exposed to be paying workers under half the minimum National Living Wage!

Despite the growing demand for clothing to be made in the UK to regenerate the textile industry, it appears that British manufacturers are unable to keep up with the current climate of cheap ‘fast fashion’ that consumers, especially students, want and is leading to the pursuit of illegal procedures.

The documentary that aired last Monday reveals how an undercover reporter was offered work at three Leicester based factories just 80 odd miles down the motorway from Leeds, all of which were prepared to pay him below the National Living Wage. This is the second time that manufacturing centre, Leicester, has come under fire for illegal pay and employment of illegal workers – following an investigation by Dispatches in 2010.

Fashion Square Ltd, a supplier for River Island were happy to hire Channel 4’s undercover reporter for just £3 – £3.50 an hour! Despite challenging this hourly wage the reporter is told by the factory boss that,

“We don’t get paid much for our clothes, and we need to compete with China and Bangladesh. They can get it cheap there. How will they get it made cheaper here? If we pay everyone £10 or £6 then we will make a loss.”

Following the new reports from Dispatches, River Island had said that due to two failed audits in February 2016, Fashion Square Ltd had already been removed from their approved factory list and that “suppliers were informed not to use this factory for any further River Island orders. We are investigating this issue and will take appropriate action”.

Another unnamed factory reported to be supplying New Look jumpers was alleged to be paying workers, including the undercover reporter, just £3 per hour. The boss of this factory also failed to check any necessary documents for the reporter to ensure he was able to legally work in the UK. Papers found by Channel 4’s reporter revealed that orders had been sent to nearby manufacturer TS Knitwear, who were in turn subcontracting work to this unnamed factory. This was allegedly done without the knowledge of New Look, who after finding this out revealed they had “terminated our relationship with TS Knitwear with immediate effect”.

A third factory, United Creations, which were making and packaging clothing for online retailers’ Boohoo and Missguided – two companies’ whose profits have soared in recent years due to their fast fashion turnovers, were also paying workers well under the National Minimum and Living Wage at just £3.25 . After discovering such allegations, Boohoo said that they were not aware that United Creations were carrying out work for a supplier and said that they had visited the supplier as soon as Dispatches got in contact.

Despite the evidence shown on the undercover film, both Fashion Square Ltd and United Creations denied that anyone in their factories were being paid under the legal minimum wage. Surely this makes us think that even in modern times people in developed cities such as Leicester and perhaps even our beloved Leeds are being illegally employed to feed the major high street retailers.

Dispatches Undercover: Britain’s Cheap Clothes. Worth a watch. http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/

By Jess Jones

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