Lockdown breaches, exploitation, and modern slavery in fast-fashion giant Boohoo’s supply chain in Leicester

Workers reports reveal serious breaches of UK lockdown measures, failure to protect workers from COVID-19 and furlough fraud. Whilst many brands’ profits have taken a hit during the COVID-19 crisis, a surge in online shopping during the lockdown has boosted Boohoo shares by 22%. Earlier this month, Boohoo agreed to buy online businesses of Warehouse and Oasis for £5.25m[1].

Today, as Leicester is in lockdown, Labour Behind the Label published a new report revealing shocking working conditions in the factories and workshops where Boohoos clothes are made. Workers reports reveal that many Leicester factories continued to operate at 100% capacity throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, primarily due to sustained orders from the biggest brand sourcing from Leicester, Boohoo.
Reports from workers indicate serious breaches of lockdown regulations with workers pressured to work with little to no social distancing or provision of PPE. Reports claim that workers who had tested positive for COVID-19, were told to continue working in factories and were prevented from disclosing their infection to others. The reports also include allegations of modern slavery, furlough fraud and wage and benefit theft within Boohoo’s Leicester supply chain.
Meg Lewis, Campaigns Manager for Labour Behind the Label, said: “We have repeatedly called on Boohoo to improve labour rights in their supply chain, yet they have failed to take meaningful action. The surge in Boohoo’s profits during the COVID-19 crisis is directly linked to their disregard of responsible sourcing.”
 “As the biggest brand sourcing from Leicester, Boohoo calls the shots in the local supply chain;”  said Dominique Muller, Policy Director for Labour Behind the Label. “Government authorities must recognise that the lack of proper legislation and monitoring is endangering workers lives – it is time to ensure that workers in Leicester are protected and better practice in the garment industry respected.”
A leader in the online fast-fashion industry, Boohoo Group Ltd has a market value of £4.6 billion, yet the brand is lagging behind in terms of workers’ rights.  Boohoo source approximately half their clothes from UK factories based in Leicester, yet independently verifying working conditions in their supplier factories is very difficult due to the secrecy under which Boohoo currently operates. 
Boohoo’s purchasing practices have increasingly come under fire from labour rights campaigners. Industry sources say that it is impossible to produce goods at prices requested by Boohoo and pay the UK minimum wage[2].  Workers reports suggest that the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the pre-existing poor working conditions in Boohoo’s supply chain.

Read the full report here.

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-53075529
[2] https://www.ft.com/content/e427327e-5892-11e8-b8b2-d6ceb45fa9d0

published 2020-07-01