Several high street stores and online fashion retailers are allegedly using UK-based factories that pay less than half the minimum wage. The textile firms, paying garment workers between £3 and £3.50 an hour, produce clothes for high-street stores, according to the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary. The legal minimum wage in the UK is £7.20 an hour.
A reporter for Dispatches: Britain’s Cheap Clothes went undercover at Fashion Square Ltd, a firm labelling clothes for River Island, another factory making garments for New Look, and Missguided and Boohoo contractor United Creations. He was paid between £3 and £3.50 an hour in the factories.
As the Guardian reports, when the undercover reporter inquired about making the legal £7.20 wage, the boss said: “You won’t get that here. That’s what I’m telling you. We don’t get paid much for our clothes, and we need to compete with China and Bangladesh. They can get it cheap there. How will they get it made cheaper here? If we pay everyone £10 or £6 then we will make a loss.”
River Island has responded to the investigation, stating that Fashion Square was removed from their suppliers list in February 2016. A spokesperson said: “Suppliers were informed not to use this factory for any further orders. Subcontracting without River Island’s approval is a serious breach of our terms and conditions.”
New Look said the brand had been reducing its number of contracted UK suppliers since 2011, and the factory in question had been unknowingly subcontracted, but were “extremely concerned” by the investigation findings.
Missguided said allegations were “taken very seriously”, adding that they “demand the highest standards of safety, working conditions and pay from all of our suppliers and subcontractors”, while adhering to the Ethical Trading Initiative and conducting audits. An internal investigation is supposedly underway. Boohoo claimed to be unaware of United Creations involvement in its supply chain, stating that the retailer would not allow workers being paid under minimum wage.
Fashion Square and United Creations denied the revelations.