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Garment workers in Leicester factories still face poor conditions, survey finds

By Huw Hughes


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Image: Pexels

Almost two years after an investigation exposed unsafe working environments and minimum wage breaches in Leicester garment factories, workers are still facing poor conditions, a new report finds.

A survey of 116 factory workers, conducted by University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab and De Montfort University, found that over half (56 percent) of respondents said they were being paid below minimum wage, while 55 percent said they were not getting holiday pay.

Other complaints included not getting sick pay (49 percent), not being issued a work contract (32 percent), not being allowed to take holiday (24 percent), not being given their wage (23 percent), and being treated unfairly due to their gender, ethnicity, etc. (21 percent).

The report included nine recommendations to improve working conditions at Leicester factories, including providing a single ‘front door’ contact point for workers wishing to make a complaint to enforcement agencies and offering ongoing support and case management for those who raise issues.

Other recommendations include improving worker access to English language provisions; connecting workers with sources of community-based legal advice and support; and improving access to local educational services for workers and their families.

Report finds more needs to be done at Leicester factories

Alison Gardner, the lead researcher at University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab, 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.”

The survey, which took place between November 2021 and March 2022, was commissioned by the Garment & Textile Workers Trust (G&TWT), which was funded by UK fast fashion group Boohoo in its efforts to improve its track record on workers’ rights.

In July 2020, a Sunday Times investigation alleged that certain factories supplying clothing to Boohoo were forcing employees to work while sick with Covid-19 and paying just 3.50 pounds per hour.

Boohoo launched an independent review, which found “many failings” in its supply chain, leading the group to cut ties with hundreds of factories, and launch its Agenda for Change programme in which it set out six steps to enhance its supplier audit and compliance procedures.

Workers Rights