MPs have called for the introduction of a garment trade adjudicator to help eradicate non-compliance with labour market regulation in the UK’s garment industry.
It comes as the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) said it has seen evidence of “ongoing labour abuses in the domestic and international supply chains supplying UK fashion retailers”.
In a letter to the secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, the EAC said it has been “shocked” over the past three years by reports of underpayment of wages and poor working conditions.
The EAC said voluntary corporate social responsibility initiatives “have failed to significantly improve” the issues, and suggested therefore the government should explore the introduction of a garment trade adjudicator.
It said it heard from the director of labour market enforcement, Matthew Taylor, in December, who said the idea was worth exploring.
Chair of the EAC, Philip Dunne, said: “Brands and retailers often wield considerable economic power in comparison to the suppliers they source clothes from. A garment trade adjudicator could help to ensure undue economic pressure is not placed on suppliers to cut corners on pay and conditions.
“We suspect this would have more effect, more rapidly, than introducing a licensing system on garment suppliers who tend to be smaller entities with less bargaining power than their customers.
“Only when brands and supply chains know that there is zero-tolerance to labour market abuses can we have confidence that workers will be paid properly and have appropriate working conditions.”