Boohoo’s £3.50/hr workers are owed millions in back pay
Boohoo workers are having their wages stolen from them. Workers in Leicester are owed million of pounds in back pay after years of £3.50/hr work, which has established itself as a norm in the Leicester industry. This illegal exploitation has led to mass profits for Boohoo who have used the cheap manufacturing to build their business into a multi-million-pound profit engine. Boohoo must pay back the wages that are owed.
Boohoo must #GoTransparent
For years Boohoo have refused to say where their clothes are made yet anecdotally, we know that Boohoo source upwards of 70% of the product coming out of Leicester factories. Repeated studies have shown that clothes made in Leicester are made by workers on illegally low wages, working hugely long hours, paid through false pay slips and double records. During the pandemic, undercover investigations found furlough fraud, workers forced to come into factories even when ill, cramped and unsafe conditions, as well as £3.50/hr pay. All the while, Boohoo’s one inhouse auditor responsible for checking factory conditions was put on furlough… Boohoo must be honest about where its clothes are made and publish a supplier list without delay. This is the first step to change.
Soaring profits on the back of worker exploitation
Boohoo’s profits have soared in the pandemic, despite media exposes on poor factory conditions.
Profits in the first half of 2020 rose by 51%, as Boohoo made £68.1m in profits in the six months to 31 August. Meanwhile, many other high street brands saw huge losses. The question we are made to ask when faced with these figures is was this margin made on the back of illegal work and who is being made to pay? Likely the workers.
What Boohoo say and what we say
Following multiple news reports this year that put Boohoo in the spotlight for illegally exploiting workers in Leicester, Boohoo commissioned an “independent review” by a lawyer – Alison Levitt QC – into what happened in their suppliers and what should be done. The review found systematic evidence of massive wage theft and non-compliance with minimum wage regulations, inadequate and slapdash auditing, a lack of proper oversight of the supply chain, an unwillingness to take responsibility at the highest level within the Boohoo Group, and the overarching pursuit of profit and growth at the expense of proper corporate governance. In response to the findings, Boohoo issued a series of commitments to change its practices.
On transparency Boohoo said:
“Within the next six months, we will: Consolidate our approved supplier list, whilst still maintaining a significant presence in the Leicester garment industry; Invite new suppliers who have a track record of ethical and sustainability policies to be included on our supplier list; Extend our independent audit programme to the rest of our UK and global supply chain; Complete the process of auditing all of our tier one and tier two UK suppliers, after which we will publish the list in full, and we will release an updated list annually.
While it is good that Boohoo are working to consolidate their supplier list, we have heard accounts of Boohoo cutting ties with hundreds of factories in Leicester in recent months, where workers have been illegally paid for years. Leaving workers in the lurch and without proper compensation for the work they have done to build Boohoo’s mass profits, is unethical and wrong. Boohoo must stop cut and run practices unless all worker concerns and backpay issues have been first resolved, and then ensure workers are not adversely affected by order stoppages.
Boohoo seem to be trying to clean up their supply chain before publishing a list. We say that Boohoo should be honest now about where their clothes are made and have been made, and take responsibility for the past as well as the future. They must publish their supplier list now, without delay.
On wages Boohoo say:
“The Independent Review makes it clear that some workers in our supply chain have not always been properly compensated for their work. As part of our commitment to Leicester’s garment industry workers, we will: Establish a Garment & Textiles Community Trust, governed by independent trustees, providing it with start‐up funding and ongoing annual support; We will provide professional support to establish the Trust’s objectives and activities, including a grant giving function to address hardship experienced by those working in the local garment industry.”
It is not charity that workers need, but reimbursement of the wages that were stolen from them. Giving grants to address poverty isn’t a solution – the law clearly states our minimum wage and this amount should be met by companies in the supply chain. Boohoo, and brands sourcing from Leicester, must take additional steps to ensure that workers get their missing wages. This should be in the form of a fund to cover the UK wage theft gap.