Addressing Labour Abuse in the UK’s Fashion & Textile Manufacturing Industry
On the 4th April the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) held a meeting with key individuals from the UK’s retail and textile manufacturing sector, including Fashion Enter / FashionCapital CEO Jenny Holloway. Ian Waterfield opened the meeting with the following key objectives: to raise industry standards, develop strategies to tackle exploitation, identify those not complying with standards and attract new people to the industry.
The GLAA works in partnership to protect vulnerable and exploited workers. The organisation is a Non Departmental Public Body (NDPB) governed by an independent board made up of a chair and six members, who were recruited for their respective knowledge, experience and skills.
The key GLAA role is to protect vulnerable and exploited workers. Through intelligence from inspections, the public, industry and other government departments, the GLAA investigate reports of worker exploitation and illegal activity such as human trafficking, forced labour and illegal labour provision, as well as offences under the National Minimum Wage and Employment Agencies Acts.
The dark side of the UK’s manufacturing industry has come under the media spotlight of late with reports of unscrupulous factories paying their workers in cash, often at a rate well below minimum wage, one factory in Leicester was found to be paying just £3.50 an hour. While approximately one quarter of reports relate to workers who are illegal and non-English speaking who do not know their rights.
For those working as transparently and fairly as possible it has long been debated that something needs to be done to ensure ‘Made in the UK’ is a label the industry can be proud of. It’s simply not right that there are two systems operating within garment manufacturing. If companies are paying less than the minimum wage for garments then they should be fined under the Modern Slavery Act. This is where organisations like GLAA can step in and enforce these regulations.
Jenny Holloway commented: “The meeting at Leicester was really beneficial to see how retailers are working with Government bodies to ensure the Modern Slavery Act and other technical and H&S compliances are being enforced. There were 32 swoops in Leicester before Christmas and it’s recognised that coercion of the labour force occurs across the UK. This is a great start to stop labour abuse within garment manufacturing.”
At Fashion Enter we use the Galaxius system - a recorded bar code system that is scanned at every stage of the garment manufacturing process. It is totally transparent and this is why at the Fashion Enter factory we can say who made what stitch on each and every garment.
There are currently 16 signatories to the protocol and numerous others that are engaged but are not yet signed up. At Fashion Enter we know that we are not alone in maintaining high ethical practises here in the UK and working with the likes of GLAA we hope to push forward to ensure the dark side of the industry remains firmly in the past. Over the next 12 months the group intends to focus on mapping the factories, victim remediation, and developing consistencies within the industry. Representatives from the GLAA have also been invited to tour our factory in North London and see a fully compliant and ethical factory in operation.
(The Galaxius system in use at the Fashion Enter factory right)