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MPs write to Boohoo to demand answers on Leicester allegations

Lauretta Roberts
16 July 2020

Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), has written to fast fashion group Boohoo to seek answers on the allegations surrounding mistreatment of staff at Leicester factories that supplied its clothing.

Boohoo said the factory at the centre of the allegations, (named later as Morefray Ltd) which included underpayment and insufficient health & safety measures laid out in an investigation by The Sunday Times, was subcontracted without its knowledge.

The MPs who make up the EAC say Boohoo should have been aware of what was happening and pointed out that the concerns surrounding some Leicester factories were covered in the committee's 2019 "Fixing Fashion" inquiry and report.

As part of that enquiry, Boohoo's co-founder Carol Kane, was called to Parliament to account for the company's sourcing practices, along with a number of other fashion industry leaders.

In its report the EAC requested that Boohoo joins the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and work with unions to improve workers conditions. Boohoo has yet to apply to join the ETI and the ETI has told the EAC they “are not convinced that [Boohoo] would meet a number of critical aspects essential to ETI membership.”

Dunne commented: “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 Dunne’s question to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, on 13 July where he raised concerns of modern slavery found during the Committee’s fast fashion inquiry. The Home Secretary confirmed that there was a cross-Government taskforce looking into the issue of working conditions in factories in Leicester.

In his letter Dunne poses the following questions:

  • 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?

The company has said it will respond to the letter in due course.

TheIndustry.fashion spoke to a number of leading industry figures, including two manufacturers, to ask their opinions on what needs to be done to improve the situation in Leicester. Read their responses here.

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