Industry Profiles - Textiles Industry - 2020
Here we look at labour exploitation in the textiles industry and the headline trends for this sector including victim profiles, location and key questions to prevent and identify labour exploitation.
Victims are predominantly female and of Bulgarian nationality. Age is rarely reported.
Intelligence suggests irregular migrants may be targeted by exploiters.
The most frequently reported location is the East Midlands, predominantly Leicester. There are also reports of exploitation in London and the North-West.
There are limited reports of victims being actively approached by the exploiter or employed via a sponsorship or visa. Where recruitment takes place overseas there is little information about how victims are transported to the UK and whether this is arranged by the exploiter.
Exploiters often accommodate victims in shared residential housing. There is limited reporting of workers living at their place of work and in outbuildings. Conditions are often described as substandard and sometimes hazardous.
Non-payment of National Minimum Wage is the most common allegation. Workers are often paid between £2 and £4 an hour. There are also reports of withheld wages, often regarding overtime and holiday pay.
There are some health and safety concerns, including fire hazards at the place of work.
This is a highly competitive market and consumer demand for “fast fashion” is likely to increase.
It is reported that the pandemic has had an impact on the supply chain overseas which may see an increase in demand for British produced apparel.
A shortage in skilled machinists is reported and this may be further impaired by the points-based immigration system.
Key questions to prevent and identify labour exploitation
• Do you have a code of conduct for factories/suppliers? Are there regular audits to identify and address any exploitative labour practices?
• Do you have a publicised reporting process for complaints by workers?
• What mechanisms do you have in place to understand high risk workers' recruitment and working conditions? Are these effective?
• Do members of your organisation receive training on spotting the signs of modern slavery?
• Has your organisation undertaken a modern slavery/labour exploitation risk assessment?
• Do you have an internal escalation process if you identify an issue of exploitation? Do you know who to contact?
• Have you considered joining the textiles protocol?
What to consider when reporting intelligence
Example: A textiles company in the West Midlands is employing Eastern European workers who are described as unhappy. They have no breaks and work long hours.
What else may assist the GLAA?
Provide more details about the workers involved:
- Do you know what language they speak or what nationality they are?
- Do any appear to be minors?
- Male or female?
- What hours do they work, what time do shifts start and finish?
- How are workers arriving, are there vehicle details?
- Are there any more company details?
- Is there any information about a potential exploiter?
Whilst not all factors may be known, any additional details will assist the GLAA in identifying people and locations involved for operational purposes and to improve our intelligence picture.
Find out more about the Textiles Protocol.
Who to contact
Please report to the GLAA:
• Unlicensed trading in the regulated sector (agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering and any associated processing and packaging) across the UK.
• Labour market offences (non-payment of the National Minimum Wage, breach of Employment Agency Standards) in the regulated sector in England and Wales
• Individuals, labour users or labour providers who are suspected of modern slavery and human trafficking in any labour industry (excluding sexual exploitation), or individuals who are potential victims of such activity in England and Wales.
Please report to partners:
• Issues of National Minimum Wage only, in sectors that are not GLAA regulated to the HMRC NMW team (https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs/contact/national-minimum-wage-enquiries-and-complaints)
• Health and safety issues only (all sectors) to the Health and Safety Executive (http://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/concerns.htm)
• Workplace relations and employment law issues (including contract issues, discrimination and grievances) to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) (https://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1410)
• When there is an immediate threat to life contact the police emergency number.
• To report labour exploitation, human trafficking or modern slavery outside of the regulated sectors in Northern Ireland or Scotland, contact the local police service.