Chair writes to Boohoo on illegal working practices

16 July 2020

In a letter to Boohoo’s Group Executive Director and Group Executive sent today by Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mr Dunne disputes the claim that the Group was not aware of the illegal working practices at factories making the fast fashion firm’s garments.  

Boohoo should have been aware of allegations of poor working practices in its supply chain. The Committee’s 2019 report on Fixing Fashion highlighted the issue of Leicester’s garment workers being paid below the National Minimum Wage. The example of Leicester was again discussed during a public evidence hearing with the Financial Times’ Sarah O’Connor which triggered a letter to Boohoo from the Committee raising concerns with Leicester garment workers being paid illegally low wages. Boohoo Group’s co-founder and then Chief Executive Carol Kane later appeared before the Committee where poor conditions and illegally low pay in Leicester garment factories was discussed. 

Despite the growing calls for Boohoo to address concerns for its workers, it apparently continues to be unwilling to engage with trade unions and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). The Committee contacted Usdaw about trade union representation for Boohoo staff, and the ETI on labour market practices in its wider supply chain. 

Usdaw confirmed that the company refuses to recognise the union, and workers have told them that they feel intimidated at work and have been instructed not to engage with union representatives. Despite assuring the Committee last year that it was taking steps to join the ETI, the Committee understands Boohoo did not formally apply to join and the ETI has said they “are not convinced that [Boohoo] would meet a number of critical aspects essential to ETI membership.” 

Chair's comments

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Philip Dunne, said: 

“It is incredible that over a year since the Committee highlighted illegal working practices in its supply chain, Boohoo has publicly denied any knowledge of what has been happening for years. 

“Last year Boohoo told us that it was going to join the ETI. We note it has not done so. It is shameful that it took a pandemic and the ensuing outrage about working practices in their supply chain for Boohoo finally to be taken to task for turning a blind eye.

“I have today asked a number of questions to discover what the company is doing to protect its workers and to ask whether any environmental standards have been adopted to lessen the impact of fast fashion on our environment.” 

The letter’s publication follows Mr Dunne’s question to the Home Secretary on 13 July where he raised concerns of modern slavery found during the Committee’s fast fashion inquiry. The Home Secretary confirmed that there is a cross-Government taskforce looking into the issue of working conditions in  factories in Leicester.  

The following questions have been asked of Boohoo: 

  • What measures did Boohoo Group companies put in place during the pandemic to protect workers both at its own operations and at the garment factories that supply its garments?   
  • Did Boohoo continue to issue fines to producers for late delivery during the pandemic? And if so, how many?  
  • To ensure that the health and safety of garment workers is protected and that collective bargaining is allowed, will Boohoo now commit to establishing formal trade union recognition?  
  • Why did Boohoo take the decision not to apply for Membership of the ETI? 
  • How was the “alternative initiative” evaluated to ensure Boohoo would be held accountable to the highest ethical and environmental standards? 
  • Will Boohoo now reconsider aligning its practices to enable it to become a member of the ETI?  

Further information

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