A study carried out by the Garment & Textile Workers Trust found that the exploitation of workers has continued to plague Leicester.

Close-up on fingers working on a sewing machine

More than half of garment workers in Leicester surveyed said they receive below minimum wage

Two years on from the Boohoo supply chain scandal, when workers in the city were found to be vastly underpaid, the fast-fashion giant commissioned a survey into the remaining Leicester factories.

Of the 116 workers surveyed, more than half revealed that they receive below minimum wage and no holiday pay.

The survey indicated that 49% of garment workers receive no sick pay, 56% are paid less than minimum wage, 55% did not receive holiday pay and 33% work with no contract and do not receive payslips.

Other complaints included workers not being allowed to take breaks, being pressured to work extended hours and being treated unfairly due to their gender or ethnicity.

Half of those surveyed said that they were afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs, with 8% working illegally due to their immigration status or claiming benefits, while 4% said they did not have the right to work in the UK.

The report offered nine recommendations to improve working conditions in Leicester factories, including creating a single labour market enforcement body to simplify the complaints process for workers.

The trust also announced plans to provide free access to English language classes to everyone who wants them, every night of the week.

Alison Gardner, the lead researcher at Rights Lab, which contributed to the research, said: “Garment workers told us that they want to build a beautiful future for the next generation in Leicester, but there are currently many constraints that stop them from accessing fair pay and conditions. 

“Our report has added to the existing knowledge about these issues, but importantly also points to solutions suggested by workers themselves. We hope that the interventions outlined in our report can help to guide both local and national-level action in the years ahead.”

Garment & Textile Workers Trust chair Kevin McKeever added: “This research is an important addition to the body of knowledge on labour exploitation in the garment and textile industry, and significant in listening to the voices of workers themselves, alongside local government and civil society.

“It’s crystal-clear that there’s only so much that companies, individuals, trade unions and civil society can do to tackle labour exploitation in Leicester and beyond. It’s time for government to step up and form – and fund – their long-promised single enforcement body.”

The research was undertaken by Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham and the law school at De Montfort University, Leicester. 

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