Tuesday, 7 July 2020
Boohoo's shares plunge again amid 'modern slavery' reports

Readers probably won't remember that two years ago I wrote about  Sadiq Khan's odd standards when censoring adverts for London transport. Pretty girls in swimsuits, vintage fine art nudes and Gary Lineker in a bow tie with no shirt were verboten; seductive models advertising cheap garments from a Muslim owned clothing line were the exception. And earlier this year an underwear line for BAMEs called Nubian Skin but so far as I know they don't employ slave labour. 

The throwaway clothing lines I mentioned were BooHoo and Pretty Little Thing owed by various sons and brothers of the Kamani family. Dad is Mahmud; his sons are Adam, Umar and Samir. When I wrote last year some of the concerns about conditions in their Burnley factory were bullying, the paucity of meal breaks during 12 hour shifts and the imposition of halal criteria upon the foodstuffs that staff could consume during their breaks. 

During the recent Covid 19 outbreak the midlands city of Leicester has been placed back into quarantine due to a spike in cases, which are centred around the eastern part of town. Leicester has a minority of white English inhabitants; the part of town where these cases are most numerous is the Asian district, and in particular the garment factories where some shocking allegations have been made that workers have been forced to continue working when ill. This in factories which should have been closed under lockdown regulations, with the threat they they would not be paid their furlough pay (80% of wages paid by the government via the employer for workers who cannot work if their workplace is shut by government order) unless they came in and worked for it. In factories where wages are under half that of the statutory minimum wage, poorly ventilated (where were the factory inspectors, or Health and Safety Inspectorate as they are now called) and insantitary. The name of the clothing firm for which many of  these garments are made? BooHoo and Pretty Little Thing. 

BooHoo is now facing slavery investigations. I believe they are denying knowledge of improper practices by their sub contractors. The sub contractor has challenged the Sunday Times for this article. From the Sunday Times

Workers in Leicester making clothes destined for the fashion giant Boohoo are being paid as little as £3.50 an hour, an undercover Sunday Times investigation has found.

The factory, which displayed the sign Jaswal Fashions, was also operating last week during the localised coronavirus lockdown without additional hygiene or social distancing measures in place. The undercover reporter spent two days working in the factory where he was told to expect £3.50 an hour, despite the minimum wage in Britain for those aged 25 and over being £8.72.

At the factory the foreman warned: “These motherf***ers know how to exploit people like us. They make profits like hell and pay us in peanuts.”

Priti Patel, the home secretary, asked the National Crime Agency (NCA) to investigate modern slavery in Leicester’s clothing factories. The development came after The Sunday Times, with the Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen, raised the alarm with the Home Office after being approached by whistleblowers about the illegal practices allegedly employed in some of the city’s clothing factories. 

Boohoo has already come under fire for allegedly risking the spread of coronavirus in Leicester after claims that factories supplying the online retailer told staff to come into work during lockdown despite being sick. 

Boohoo, which owns Nasty Gal, PrettyLittleThing, MissPap, BoohooMAN, Karen Millen and Coast brands, is Britain’s fastest-growing online retailer and is valued at £4.9bn, more than twice as much as Marks & Spencer. A statement from Nasty Gal said the company would investigate this newspaper’s claims, but insisted that Jaswal Fashions was not a “direct supplier”.


Faiza Fashion manager Asim Ali, told MailOnline that all the garments they manufacture are for Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing (PLT). He said: 'All our work is for these two companies and it is the same for all the other garment manufacturers in Leicester. We do not deal directly with them but are given the orders by middle companies who liaise with them. We opened earlier than expected during the first lockdown because there was such an increase in online clothes shopping. Since then, work has not stopped. We are inundated with orders because so many people are buying online.'

Pictured: Workers at the Faiza Fashion factory in Leicester continue to work despite the newly reimposed lockdown

I'm about 50 years too old and 5 stone too heavy for any of these ranges, but the very names don't appeal. Today the London Evening Standard reports

Boohoo's shares plunge again amid 'modern slavery' reports

Today the shares, already dented its shares this week, fell a further 37p or 12% to 260p today. On top of yesterday’s 23% plunge, that meant the company had lost £1.5 billion off its market cap in two days and its value, at £3.27 billion, has slipped marginally below rival Asos at £3.31 billion.

Yesterday Boohoo said it will investigate alleged illegal practices at a supplier in Leicester after the reports that staff were being paid less than minimum wage – at £3.50 an hour - to work in poor conditions.

Umar Kamani, chief executive of Boohoo owned Pretty Little Thing, has posted a brace of cryptic tweets, likely linked to the affair. Yesterday he said: “Don’t believe everything you read” and today he tweeted: “The truth will always come out” before deleting the tweet.

Garment manufacturing has always been very hard work. My late mother was a machinist before I was born. But from the way she spoke of her line, and her friends who worked in a blouse factory in our street I don't believe the conditions in the 1950s and 1960s in east London were as bad as described above. Those factories were frequently Jewish owned and run; different ethics of how to do business yet still make a living maybe? 

Anyway I don't think Sadiq Khan can help them now with a favourable advertising spread. 

I want to buy products Made in England (or elsewhere in Great Britain) rather than an exploited sweatshop in Bangladesh or China; I don't want that English workshop to be exploiting workers just as badly in Leicester, Bradford or anywhere else. 

Posted on 07/07/2020 9:22 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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