Fashion retailer Asos dropped its Leicester clothing factories two years ago after concerns began to emerge over their poor ethical standards and working conditions.
The online giant stopped production in two factories after concerns were raised over their ‘illegal wages’, ‘poor health and safety standards’ and the employment of vulnerable employees
It comes after it was revealed that clothes workers in Leicester were being paid as little as £3.50 an hour to produce items for some of the UK’s biggest fashion brands including Boohoo and Nasty Gal.
Earlier this week fast-fashion brand Quiz also suspended one of its suppliers amid claims that its factory workers in Leicester were being paid as little as £3-an-hour.
In 2017, Asos chief Nick Beighton visited manufacturers in Leicester with the former New Look boss Anders Kristiansen in the hopes of tripling his production line.
Asos stopped production in its Leicester factories two years ago after concerns were were raised over ‘illegal wages’, ‘poor health and safety standards’ and the employment of vulnerable employees. (Stock image)
It was earlier revealed that clothes workers in Leicester were being paid as little as £3.50 an hour to produce items Boohoo. (Stock image)
However the two bosses were left reporting the scenes to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights and expressed their concerns over ‘illegal wages’, the ‘poor health and safety standards’ and ‘subcontracting and vulnerable workers.’
In a report to the committee the pair wrote: ‘An important step in this re-emergence will be for all the stakeholders in the UK and Leicester clothing and textile industry to commit to the framework of United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
‘We have been sufficiently concerned about some of the conditions within the Leicester manufacturing industry as to join the Ethical Trading Initiative’s (ETI) group focussed on Leicester.’
They added: ‘New Look and ASOS have implemented this programme in our UK supply base, which has been successful in enhancing the identification of ethical risk areas and driving full compliance with all UK legislation including the UK Modern Slavery Act.
‘Since starting this initiative, New Look and ASOS have seen measurable improvements regarding health and safety, right to work documentation and wages verification in our UK supply base.
‘However, not all factories have seen the benefit or importance of committing to this programme and we have seen a significant reduction in our approved supply base as a result.
‘Despite our considerable efforts to play our part in improving the industry, we are still concerned over the presence of a number of key issues across the UK supply base and in Leicester in particular.
‘These include illegal wages, right to work, poor health and safety standards, subcontracting and vulnerable workers.
‘Those factories operating outside of legal standards are undermining our efforts to improve standards in UK manufacture and increase our sourcing in the Leicester area.
‘The private sector cannot solve these issues alone.’
Mr Kristiansen, who had been looking to double New Look’s £35 million orders from Leicester factories, told The Telegraph at the time: ‘It is a ticking time bomb.
This week it was revealed that Fast-fashion brand Quiz had suspended one of its suppliers in Leicester. (Stock image)
Pictured: Workers at the Faiza Fashion factory in Leicester continue to work despite the newly reimposed lockdown
‘Many of these factories have unsafe conditions with fire escapes blocked up, workers exploited and paid far below minimum wage.
‘What happens if there is another massive fire, what will it take for people to wake up?’
The revelations come after a Sunday Times investigation discovered clothes workers in Leicester were being paid as little as £3.50 an hour to produce items for some of the UK’s biggest fashion brands including Boohoo and Nasty Gal.
The undercover report also found that no additional hygiene or social distancing measures were in place, despite the city being in a localised lockdown due to an outbreak of the virus.
In covert footage, the undercover reporter recorded himself packing garments clearly labelled as ‘Nasty Gal’.
He was also approached by the factory foreman, who warned: ‘These motherf***ers know how to exploit people like us. They make profits like hell and pay us in peanuts.
‘Take me for instance, I’ve been working for so many years in this industry, I’ve been here for five years but never could I take a proper pay packet. I’m still only on just over £5 an hour.’
Following the shocking footage, the NCA said in a statement: ‘Within the last few days NCA officers, along with Leicestershire Police and other partner agencies, attended a number of business premises in Leicester area to assess concerns of modern slavery and human trafficking.’
More than £1billion has since been wiped from Boohoo’s share price as the scandal unfolded.
Responding to the investigation, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: ‘These allegations are truly appalling and I commend the Sunday Times and local MP Andrew Bridgen for their roles in uncovering such abhorrent practices.
The Chief executive of Quiz Tarak Ramzan has said the company is investigating the incident and will conduct a fuller review of their supplier
‘I will not tolerate sick criminals forcing innocent people into slave labour and a life of exploitation.
‘Let this be a warning to those who are exploiting people in sweatshops like these for their own commercial gain.
‘This is just the start. What you are doing is illegal, it will not be tolerated and we are coming after you.’
Earlier this week, Quiz suspended one of its suppliers amid claims that its factory workers in Leicester were being paid as little as £3-an-hour and vowed to investigate the allegations.
Quiz said that the allegations ‘if found to be accurate are totally unacceptable’ and it is grateful to the press for highlighting the alleged breaches.
The company believes one of its suppliers used a sub-contractor ‘in direct contravention of previous instruction from Quiz’.
It said it would terminate relationships with any suppliers who failed to comply with the Group’s Ethical Code of Practice or meet the Group’s standards.
Chief executive of Quiz Tarak Ramzan said: ‘We are extremely concerned and disappointed to be informed of the alleged breach of National Living Wage requirements in a factory making Quiz products.
‘The alleged breaches to both the law and Quiz’s Ethical Code of Practice are totally unacceptable.
‘We are thoroughly investigating this incident and will also conduct a fuller review of our supplier auditing processes to ensure that they are robust. We will update our stakeholders in due course.’
Following the allegations against Boohoo Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was ‘truly appalling’
In a statement, Quiz said: ‘Quiz is extremely concerned by information recently reported in the media regarding an alleged instance of non-compliance with National Living Wage requirements in a factory making Quiz products in Leicester. The Group is very grateful to the press for highlighting these alleged breaches.
‘The Group is currently investigating the reported allegations, which if found to be accurate are totally unacceptable.
‘From our initial review, we believe that one of Quiz’s suppliers based in Leicester has used a sub-contractor in direct contravention of a previous instruction from Quiz.
‘It is this sub-contractor that is subject of the National Living Wage complaint. Quiz has immediately suspended activity with the supplier in question pending further investigation.
‘The Board is aware that Quiz has clear-cut social responsibilities and legal obligations and understands the critical importance of ensuring the Group’s products are sourced from manufacturers whose business operations conform to appropriate standards.
‘All suppliers to Quiz must comply with the Group’s Ethical Code of Practice. Relationships with any suppliers who fail to comply with this code or meet the Group’s standards will be terminated.
‘Quiz monitors its supplier base through audits and site visits and is in the advanced stages of appointing an independent third-party partner to provide more regular audits of suppliers in the Leicester region.
‘In addition to taking immediate action on this incident, the Board commits to a full review of the Group’s current auditing processes to ensure they are robust enough to ensure on-going compliance with our Ethical Code of Practice throughout the Group’s supply chain.’
Next, Asos and Amazon have dropped Boohoo clothes from their websites other online retailers, including Zalando and Very.co.uk, have also temporarily suspended their sale.
MailOnline has contacted Asos for comment.