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FACTORY workers have been “robbed of tens of millions in wages” in just a few months, Home Secretary Priti Patel was told yesterday in a call for urgent action against labour exploitation.
Garment makers have been denied £27 million in earnings since July, according to the British Retail Consortium, which has joined forces with SNP MP Lisa Cameron, chairwoman of the all-party parliamentary group on textiles and fashion, to write to Ms Patel.
Their intervention comes months after a joint letter, signed by more than 50 cross-party MPs and peers as well as 40 more retailers, investors and NGOs, was sent in July.
The first letter called on ministers to introduce a “fit to trade” licensing scheme for garment factories in Britain.
It argued that such a scheme “would protect workers from forced labour, debt bondage and mistreatment” by ensuring that they receive the minimum wage and other benefits.
In July, online fashion retailer Boohoo came under fire over allegations that workers in a Leicester factory making clothes for the company were being paid as little as £3.50 an hour.
The fast-fashion company promised to investigate the claims and end relationships with any supplier that it found to have broken its code of conduct.
The British Retail Consortium estimates that over 10,000 garment factory workers are being paid an average of £3.50 an hour – below the legal minimum wage of £8.72.
Chief executive Helen Dickinson said that despite the reports of exploitation and a previous letter sent to Ms Patel, the co-signatories “have not seen any action from government to bring this injustice to an end.”
She added: “All the while, garment workers are robbed of tens of millions of pounds in wages.”
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