Investigation reveals allegations of scandal over new wages at Leicester garment factory


A whistleblower at one of Leicester’s garment factories claimed his employer was forcing him to pay back part of his minimum wage.

The worker, who has not been named due to fear of reprisal, has shown pay slips to Sky News which officially state that she receives the minimum wage of £ 8.91 an hour.

But the payslips had a handwritten number which the worker said was the amount she was told to pay back to cash back at the factory once she was paid.

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“They say you have to return this money,” the worker told Sky News.

“They said, you know, ‘I can’t give you minimum wage, I can’t afford to pay you minimum wage because our product’s prices are so low.’

“I’m afraid if they find out I’m not returning any money, they might fire me.”

Earlier this year, Boohoo cut ties with a number of manufacturers after saying they were unable to demonstrate the high level of transparency required.

The modern anti-slavery charity Hope For Justice then conducted its own investigation into the new measures which concluded that the new audit and crackdown on exploitation by companies like Boohoo is not working because “the bosses of factory get really creative and innovative “in the way they hide. he.

The whistleblower said that before Boohoo inspected the factory where she works they were making £ 5.50 an hour and the new system was put in place after Boohoo insisted that staff be paid on minimum wage.

There is no indication that Boohoo was aware that the factory staff would have been asked to reimburse part of his salary.

When LeicestershireLive reached out to Boohoo about the worker’s claims, a spokesperson released a lengthy statement saying they are committed to the highest standards of ethical compliance within their supply chain.

The comment did not directly say whether it addressed the whistleblower’s allegations. However, Boohoo provided a comment from group CEO John Little, who said, “As a group we are totally convinced that the important steps we have taken over the past twelve months translate into a chain of fair, robust and transparent procurement.

“The Group continues to closely monitor its suppliers, and swift action is being taken against any suppliers who fail to meet the high standards we expect. No one has done more than us to drive change in Leicester, and our work continues unabated.

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Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe called for more to be done to protect workers in the city’s garment factories.

She said: “Unfortunately, the exploitation of workers in Leicester’s garment factories is nothing new. The practice of forcing workers to reimburse their wages and paid time off to their bosses has been around for some time.

“This wage exploitation is not hidden. The problem is that too much of the responsibility for exposing the extent of exploitation rests with the workers themselves.

“Brands and retailers know this is happening but continue to limit the nature of their audits to nothing more than a toothless checkbox exercise.

Claudia Webbe
Claudia Webbe

“I deal with cases every week of workers telling me how badly they are treated and how their wages are being stolen.

“Workers want to remain anonymous because they are fearful. The system is completely rigged against the workers.

“If a garment worker manages to have the courage to officially declare, the HMRC – which aims to enforce the minimum wage – requires every worker to report their case through an online complaint form or through ACAS and even in this In this case, it could take a long time – 6 months or more before anyone reconnects with the worker.

“Meanwhile, the garment worker is left without support and without alternatives. The government needs to do much, much more to support Leicester workers – including reversing budget cuts for HMRC.

“When fast-fashion companies like Boohoo regularly sell clothes for a few pounds or less, factories in their supply chain are inevitably locked in a damaging race to the bottom. Not a single factory in Leicester has formal union recognition. It’s a vicious circle.”

A Boohoo spokesperson said, “Boohoo is committed to suppliers being required to meet these standards, and any concerns such as those raised by Sky News are immediately investigated.

“Since last year’s independent review, the group has repeatedly reiterated its determination to rebuild a Leicester apparel industry with a strong, fair and transparent supply chain.

“Suppliers are visited more frequently, subcontracting has been removed, products can only be purchased from our list of approved suppliers; mandatory whistleblower hotlines have been set up at each provider; and the use of technology allows the Group to monitor suppliers in a legal manner. and their financial records.

“Over the next twelve months, we will be transitioning all of our suppliers to the Fast Forward forensic audit model, widely recognized as the leading audit model in the UK. We continue to work closely with local authorities such as GLAA, as well as the anti-slavery charity Hope for Justice who have stated:

“Boohoo has been proactive in its measures to mitigate the risk of labor exploitation within its supply chains and is strongly committed to tackling the unscrupulous and exploitative employment practices that unfortunately still exist. at certain suppliers of the clothing industry.

“We applaud Boohoo’s work with Fashion Enter and the new Textile Academy in Leicester, as well as their collaboration with Hope for Justice and our business-focused division Slave-Free Alliance on proposed awareness and prevention initiatives. in the industry to better assess which intervention methods will be most effective. “

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