Leicester Textiles Sector Under Scrutiny Commission With Clear Objectives for Positive Change
Last week, 22nd April 2021, Leicester City Council met up to discuss the findings of its latest Scrutiny Commission regarding the area’s fashion and textile sector. Leicester has the second largest concentration of textile and fashion manufacturing businesses in the UK and the council is fully committed to ensure poor employment practices are weeded out and to promote a vibrant and ethical industry hub.
Leicester based fashion and textile factories have come under fire in previous years for unethical practices including modern day slavery, labour abuse and exploitation. The unethical actions from a minority has shone a damaging light on the industry within the area as a whole. As a result the council has engaged with representatives from national regulators, retailers, and sector bodies to discuss how ethical compliance can be maximised.
As a council Leicester are committed to working with those partners who have enforcement powers, assisting local manufacturing businesses to develop and grow, and support local people and communities who work within the sector. This work is being led through the creation of Leicester Labour Market Partnership, chaired by John Leach, Director, Neighbourhood & Environmental Services. The Portfolio Lead is Deputy City Mayor Councillor Adam Clarke. Work on business support and skills/ training for the textiles sector is being overseen by the Jobs and Skills portfolio lead Councillor Danny Myers.
Part of this support and compliance package is the creation of a Leicester based Fashion Technology Academy, in partnership with Fashion-Enter Ltd, that will train the next generation of skilled production workers as well as offer best practice employer engagement.
The Council’s strategic objectives through working in partnership on this important agenda include:
a. To promote and encourage compliance across the textile sector operating in Leicester by addressing the issues around labour abuse, exploitation, and modern slavery,
b. To ensure that communities and employees within the sector are fully aware of their rights and how to seek support should they need it, and
c. To ensure that the textile sector is fully supported to develop, including supporting the development of manufacturing skills and processes to ensure a sustainable textiles and garments sector.
Leicester Council are also working with several agencies that have the power to enforce the regulations required, these include: Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EAS) – Part of the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Serious and Organised Crime National Crime Agency and the Police.
The work around this agenda is being progressed under the 4Ps, that is:
· PREVENT: To support local businesses and employees to report issues; so that information, prevention, and enforcement activities are leading to proactive action and positive change.
· PROTECT: To support the sector, ensuring the development of thriving and sustainable businesses and employment opportunities.
· PREPARE: To test the perception that there are a number of Leicester businesses in the supply chain for the retail sector who act outside of the law, where they exploit workers and do not pay their legal duties.
· PURSUE: Where multiple non-compliance is identified, to undertake joint working between state enforcement bodies to seek to tackle this.
The work of the Leicester Labour Market Partnership has produced a positive way forward to support Leicester’s textile sector. Other considerations include:
· To develop the textile sector, ensuring that it is strong, thriving, and resilient in Leicester.
· To ensure clear alignment to the national Labour Market Enforcement Strategy and the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
· To understand current and emerging threats within the garment sector supported by appropriate analysis and evidence, delivered through the action plan.
· To understand local capability, capacity, and resources available to respond to the needs of the sector.
· To identify cross-cutting themes and issues to ensure a collaborative approach.
· To support partners in addressing the issues identified.
· To identify and make the use of available resources to establish the best way forward in ensuring compliance and good practice is encouraged.
· To seek out funding streams to help the partnership to deliver against actions set.
· To continue to look ahead at emerging threats and seek ways to deal with these.
· To identify and share regional and national good practice.
· To promote public confidence and reporting.
It is proposed that the Leicester Labour Market Partnership develops an on-going strategy during 2021. An action plan will also be developed alongside the strategy and monitoring to ensure actions are delivered will take place through the LLMP quarterly meetings. Reports will also be provided to the City Mayor and Executive and as appropriate Scrutiny Commission.
The new FC Fashion Technology Academy Leicester is due to open in summer 2021 with delivery of an initial taster programme. The Fashion-Enter Ltd team are enthusiastic to work on this initiative and to rebuild positive associations with ‘Made in Leicester’ apparel.