Leicestershire may be at the heart of the UK’s textile and manufacturing sector, but it continues to raise alarm regarding workers’ welfare.
A probe by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authorty (GLAA) found garment workers were sleeping on mattresses inside a factory producing counterfeit clothing in Leicester.
The authority checked 172 factory units in Leicester, finding five workers to be living in one centre, reported the BBC.
GLAA director Daniel Scully leads Operation Tacit, which sees them work with the police, HMRC and other agencies to investigate issues around the workplace, including employers not paying minimum wage. After executing search warrants in places where they “struggled to get co-operation”, a number of “really old buildings” were found to be in “not great” condition, with one site used to counterfeit goods also housing its employees.
“It was clear some of the workers were sleeping in the factory,” Scully told the BBC. “That’s not an environment where people should be overnight - it’s not a residential place, it’s full of paint, chemicals [and] screen-printing equipment. Where workers are being kept on the premises, that’s really not a great situation for anyone to be in.”
Mr Scully said they have been “working through a list” based on intelligence gathering and whistle-blowing, which has uncovered health and safety breaches, including some employers not implementing measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve also found some allegations of suppressed earnings, where workers are actually doing more hours than the books would show,” he said. “There are also some suggestions that money is being clawed back from workers, so on the paper records they will look like they’ve been paid the right amount, but some of that money has made it back to the company.”
“There are more factories paying the minimum wage, and we know particularly now that as we’ve moved to different tactics, including executing warrants, that that will also cause factory owners who aren’t compliant to think twice about the conditions that they’re subjecting their workers to,” the BBC reported.
On Tuesday Leicestershire police executed warrants at several addresses in Leicester and Narborough, examining “suspicious” Hungarians forced to work unpaid in East Midlands factories.
The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority is a UK Government agency that works in partnership to protect vulnerable and exploited workers.
Article source: BBC; image: A Leicester textile factory via Wikimedia Commons