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Leicester MP Claudia Webbe urges Johnson to tackle textile-worker exploitation

LABOUR MP Claudia Webbe wrote to PM Boris Johnson today to outline how the government should crack down on bosses exploiting textile workers in Leicester.

A recent study by HM Revenue and Customs found that a quarter of UK textile factories caught failing to pay the minimum wage over six years were based in the East Midlands city.

There are an estimated 1,500 clothes factories in Leicester employing about 10,000 people, of whom the majority are women from minority-ethnic backgrounds.

Some factories making clothes for fast-fashion retailers such as Boohoo were reported this week to have paid as little as £3.50 an hour and had kept operating during the coronavirus lockdown.

Leicester East MP Ms Webbe urged Mr Johnson to enforce the minimum wage for factory workers, in line with the real living wage calculated by the Living Wage Foundation.

She said the government should work with unions and civil-society groups to protect and promote labour rights in supply chains.

Local authorities and the Health and Safety Executive should be properly funded and given more powers “to proactively intervene in unsafe workplaces,” Ms Webbe added.

Her letter also says that the Modern Slavery Act should be strengthened to require large companies to perform “due diligence checks across their supply chains.”

Ms Webbe condemned Mr Johnson for blaming the exploitation of workers in Leicester’s garment industry on mayor Peter Soulsby during Prime Minister’s Questions today.

She also accused the government of failing to tackle the issue when it was first reported on last year by the Commons environmental audit committee.

“After this crisis, Leicester can no longer be known as ‘the sweatshop’ of Europe,” Ms Webbe wrote.

“I urge the government to prove that it prioritises public health over private profit by beginning to take workers’ rights seriously.”

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