In 2020, the public were shocked to discover reports of gross underpayment in factories based in the UK. Now, two years on, MP Liz Twist, Labour candidate in Blaydon, calls for a national British regulatory board to protect both suppliers and workers.
When the news first broke that the UK was home to garment factories that paid their workers as little as £3.50 an hour – less than half of minimum wage – the shock that such exploitation could be happening so close to home was palpable. Some reports go on to say that, as well as the lack of fair pay, some factory workers were forced to continue working throughout lockdown, without proper PPE or social distancing. It was, in fact, a spike in Covid cases in Leicester, where a large majority of these sweatshops are, that raised the alarm as to the conditions their workers had to endure. Upon further investigation, it was found that these sweatshops had large fast fashion corporations to blame for their low standards, with the Boohoo group, in particular, coming under fire.
Following this scandal, MP Liz Twist has proposed a Private Member’s Bill in the House of Commons that calls for an adjudicatory board to be set up for the garment industry. Twist cites the large companies for their opportunistic attitude to the global pandemic, saying that there were some who were forced to go to work despite testing positive for Covid, creating an immense health and safety risk. The goal of the board would also be to prevent market conditions that lead to evasions of labour law to increase profitability, such as preventing brands from having abusive purchasing relationships with their suppliers. A similar body, the Groceries Code Adjudicator, established in 2013, has been effective in reducing such abusive purchasing practices.
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