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Garment workers inform action plan to improve their lives

A new study examining the lives and working conditions of Leicester garment workers has identified key areas where the fashion sector can improve. The research from… View Article

FASHION

Garment workers inform action plan to improve their lives

A new study examining the lives and working conditions of Leicester garment workers has identified key areas where the fashion sector can improve.

The research from the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab and De Montfort University was commissioned by the Garment & Textile Workers Trust to gather insight directly from people who work in the industry. The trust was set up with an initial £1 million in funding from Boohoo in the wake of revelations almost two years ago regarding poor working practices in the group’s Leicester supply chain.

The researchers have now published their findings from interviews with workers and anonymous questionnaires.

These show that workers highlighted how they have limited employment options due to a lack of qualifications and job search skills, proficiency in English and cultural expectations associated with family and childcare duties. The workers also expressed a wish to pursue additional training, particularly in relation to English language skills, IT skills, and practical topics such as first aid.

In addition, anti-exploitation measures were found to be ineffective due to the isolation of workers, low expectations concerning the impact of raising concerns, and insufficient multi-agency collaboration at local level. The researchers also found that there are continuing disincentives to employers to offer decent work, due to uncertainty about the financial returns possible within an ethical business model and a ready supply of workers with limited options.

As a result of the findings, the report has recommended the setting up of a single ‘front door contact point” for workers wishing to make a complaint to enforcement agencies and that “trusted support” should be established to advocate for workplace rights.

It also suggests that workers should be connected with sources of community-based legal advice and support in a range of community languages, and that access should be improved for local educational services for workers and their families.

The final recommendations are that workers should be linked to sources of employment support, training, information and advice to enable them to access different types of work, and that there should be close engagement with employers to create high-quality jobs that are accessible to a wide range of workers.

Kevin McKeever, chairman of the Garment & Textile Workers Trust, said: “This research is an important addition to the body of knowledge on labour exploitation in the garment and textile industry and significant in listening to the voices of workers themselves, alongside local government and civil society.

“It’s crystal clear that there’s only so much companies, individuals, trade unions and civil society can do to tackle labour exploitation in Leicester and beyond – it’s time for government to step up and form – and fund – their long promised single enforcement body.”

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