It’s not Asia this time!
While several apparel factories in Asian apparel hubs have often being accused – rightly so some times – of running factories not adhering to international compliance standards, this time the story seems to have shifted to the other part of the globe.
This time it is Leicester in England.
Coronavirus has killed several retailers in last few months and therefore when the UK Government announced the reopening of stores all over the country last month it gave some reason for the retailers to smile.
However, decent sales and store reopenings were not to stay for long in England as early last week coronavirus cases started surging in England and shockingly Leicester was found to be accountable for 10 per cent of those cases.
What was more shocking was that several factories, according to media reports, in the city were found to be running even during the lockdown phase – and most of them to sustain online orders for fashion label Boohoo. That has been the talking point the whole last week.
In one of the reports, it was distinctly highlighted that several factories in Leicester were functioning at 100 per cent capacity even before the lockdown was lifted.
More on this, Labour Behind The Label, a garment worker’s rights group, said that many factories producing clothes for Boohoo have put the lives of garment workers at risk. There have been, reportedly, claims that factories asked employees to come to work even when some of them were sick.
That’s justification to the report that Leicester has contributed significantly to rising coronavirus cases in England.
Add to it, workers have alleged of social distancing rules being flouted by factories besides failing to provide basic needs like masks and sanitisers to the workers. Those who are wishing to isolate themselves are also being denied wages.
Sadly, it is strange to hear these stories coming from a European nation – something that has often been associated with Asian and African countries.
Add to it there are also complaints of many factories running in old dilapidated buildings – a big question mark on their compliance standards.
Meanwhile Boohoo has refuted allegations of the worker’s rights group by saying that it has made available sufficient quantity of PPE, masks and sanitisers and that too at free of cost.
It also said that it has always followed Government’s guidelines and ensured the safety of all its workers. However, it added that it will look into the claims made in the report, along with its third-party compliance partner. With its reputation at stake, it has to find ways to come out clean.
The Group, which owns PrettyLittleThing and Nasty Gal, generates revenue of US $ 856.9 million.
And it is not just about the COVID-19 crisis. Even earlier, Leicester has caught the world attention over wage issues.
The Labour Behind The Label has said that the Government must recognise that the situation in Leicester, and also in the UK, is not only owing to ‘some unscrupulous suppliers but also an inevitable outcome of the current fast fashion business model.
It’s all about workers’ health and safety and giving them the best of facilities – whichever part of the globe they are in.
It will be interesting to see Government’s reaction and action towards the situation.