• Exploited garment factory workers have been denied over £27million in wages since July
  • British Retail Consortium and Lisa Cameron MP write to the Home Secretary to demand action

The British Retail Consortium and Dr Lisa Cameron MP, Chair of the APPG for Textiles and Fashion, have written to the Home Secretary to demand urgent action over labour exploitation. Exploited garment workers are denied over £2.1million a week, this equates to £27million in lost earnings since a previous letter in July.

A joint letter, signed by over 50 cross-party MPs and Peers as well as a further 40 retailers, investors and NGOs was sent in July. This letter called for urgent action from Government to introduce a licensing scheme for garment factories in the UK.

According to the letter, a 'Fit-to-Trade' licensing scheme “would protect workers from forced labour, debt bondage and mistreatment, ensuring payment of National Minimum Wage, VAT, PAYE, National Insurance, holiday pay and health and safety”. This would also encourage retailers to source more of their clothing from the UK, supporting the development of an ethical, world-leading garment manufacturing industry.

It is estimated that over 10,000 garment factory workers are being paid an average of £3.50 an hour – well below the National Minimum Wage of £8.72. This violation of workers’ rights cannot be allowed to continue, and Government has a key role to play in this.  

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium said: 
"The BRC has repeatedly called on Government to do more to prevent labour exploitation in the UK garment manufacturing industry. Despite numerous reports in the media, and a previous letter to the Home Secretary signed by over 50 MPs & Peers and more than 40 retailers, investors and NGOs, we have not seen any significant action from Government to bring this injustice to an end. All the while garment workers are robbed of tens of millions of pounds in wages.

“Our members continue to stand firm against labour exploitation. Implementing statutory licensing of UK garment factories would ensure they are all ‘Fit to Trade’. We hope the Home Secretary joins us in this fight.”

Dr Lisa Cameron MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Textiles & Fashion, said:

“Right now, we have an opportunity to create a more ethical and sustainable fashion manufacturing industry in the UK, providing better jobs and boosting the economy at a time when it is needed most. It is vital the Home Secretary takes action to introduce a licensing scheme for UK garment manufacturers and puts the rights of workers at the heart of the industry. Without urgent action thousands more people face exploitation.”