Exploitation ‘rife’ in UK textile industry

28 January 2019

UK-based garment factory owners have been forced to pay almost £90,000 to employees for non-payment of the minimum wage since 2012.

Data from the HMRC revealed that having conducted 93 investigations into textile industry employers, one in four investigations identified national minimum wage non-compliance, resulting in almost £90,000 paid to employees in arrears.

In a letter provided to the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), HMRC said the investigations were a combination of complaint-led and intelligenc-led, and an average of £900 was paid out to 126 factory workers since 2012-13, with a further 14 investigations still ongoing.

The letter was shared with MPs by Janet Alexander, director of individuals and small business compliance at HMRC, as part of the EAC’s inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry, which is investigating the social and environmental impact of disposable “fast fashion” and the wider clothing industry.

Chair of the EAC, Mary Creagh MP (Labour), said: “‘Made in the UK’ should mean workers are paid at least the minimum wage. It has been 20 years since the introduction of the minimum wage but in our inquiry we heard that under payment is rife and goes hand in hand with a culture of fear and intimidation in the UK’s textile industry.

“This letter adds to the scandalous and growing evidence of workers being criminally underpaid in the UK. This must stop. We need government action to end these 19th century practices in 21st century Britain,” she continued. 

In November while providing evidence to the committee, retailers defended selling clothes for £5 or less, citing business models as the reason they were able to sell clothes for such low costs.

Spokesman for Primark, Paul Lister said the firm spent nothing on advertising which saves the company up to £150m a year which allows them to keep prices low.

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