Dispatches: Britain’s Cheap Clothes Part 2
One of fashion’s biggest success stories over the past few years has been the rise of online fast fashion, bringing the latest on-trend designs to your door. For online success story Boohoo.com distribution takes place from a 113,000 sq. ft, 6-storey state-of-the-art warehouse in Burnley. And while the company makes a lot of positive noises about endorsing workers rights a long-term employee was willing to wear a secret camera to reveal a very different reality…
(Reporter Morland Sanders talks to a Boohoo warehouse employee, pictured right, for the Dispatches documentary, image courtesy of Channel 4)
While a three strike policy might not sound like the worst of employment crimes strikes at the Boohoo warehouse are easy to accumulate, one got a strike for being late when his transport broke down, another for phoning in to say he needed to stay at home to look after a sick parent. Other employees confessed to being stressed and over-worked. Pickers were walking up to 25-miles a day collecting orders and were told to ‘keep moving’ if they stopped for rest. Other workers talked about enforced overtime, constant searches, long delay’s in clocking out and being swiftly cut from the workforce when orders slowed up.
Kieron, the long-term employee keen to expose the truth described that workers are ‘simply a number’ and that ‘compassion’ was in short supply for their working conditions and wellbeing. Boohoo retorted that ‘strikes are not current policy, searches are kept to a minimum’ and that ‘7.5 miles is the average’ that pickers walk each shift.
Jenny Holloway CEO of FashionCapital & Fashion Enter commented: “I found the second part of Dispatches uncomfortable last night for all kinds of reasons.
“I am all for equality and having a happy stable workforce – our machinists, pressers and packers are the very lifeblood of the company. Every company has to have KPIs and these translate to targets for work force. Of course these targets have to be fair and reasonable too but what was wrong with setting a packing target for the warehouse packers? It was achievable?
“The clocking out system for any company has bottlenecks. When I worked at Littlewoods Head Office many years ago I remember waiting several minutes to clock out too…it’s not ideal and going forward I’m sure clicking off times can be staggered to ensure the queues are dissipated.
“I just think we have to have a sense of fairness and parity with the industry and perhaps the true issue here is making garments at true prices and the consumer paying realistic market prices. Exploitation of anyone is never acceptable and there are certain shops I will never ever go through the doors or visit online because common sense tells you that the retail price is far too low so there is potentially a question over ethical sourcing.
“We actually have an amazing industry with passionate people that genuinely care about the generic welfare of apparel in our country. This is now the third documentary that focuses on the doom and gloom with nothing positive to say about all the real developments that have occurred. It ‘s actually fantastic that apparel manufacturing is coming back to the shores of the UK…all those new jobs being created. So enough of the negative…and let’s celebrate the positive!”
The documentary concluded by commenting on Britain’s minimum wage workers as a whole, employment lawyers believe that 3.2 million workers are vulnerable in this country and that those in the boardroom and on the backbenches need to urgently address the issue.
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