British-based factory workers producing garments for a string of top fashion brands are being paid less than half the legal minimum wage, a new undercover film claims. Textile firms making products for fashion retailers such as River Island, New Look, Boohoo and Missguided are paying their UK workers between £3 and £3.50 an hour, Channel 4’s Dispatches will allege on Monday night. The national living wage, the legal minimum, currently stands at £7.20 an hour for workers aged 25 and over.
The documentary will add further support campaigners who claim that cheap fashion comes at a cost, including widespread abuse of minimum wage laws, even in the UK. The case follows a Guardian investigation into Sports Direct in December 2015, which revealed that workers at the sportswear chain’s Derbyshire warehouse were receiving less than the legal minimum wage. The workers were eventually awarded around £1m in back pay.
In the new Dispatches film, an undercover reporter gets a job at Fashion Square Ltd, which labelled clothes for River Island. When the reporter told the firm he would usually receive at least £7.20 an hour for work, his boss replied: “You won’t get that here. That’s what I’m telling you. We don’t get paid much for our clothes, and we need to compete with China and Bangladesh. They can get it cheap there. How will they get it made cheaper here? If we pay everyone £10 or £6 then we will make a loss.” The reporter was paid around £3 an hour for work that included labelling River Island garments, Dispatches reports.
The undercover reporter also gained employment in a factory working on garments for New Look, where he was apparently paid £3.50 an hour. A third textile firm, United Creations, paid him £3.25 an hour for work which included packing a jacket for Boohoo and marking up zips on dresses for Missguided, the programme says.
River Island told Dispatches that Fashion Square had been removed from its approved factory list in February 2016. The fashion chain added: “Suppliers were informed not to use this factory for any further orders. Subcontracting without River Island’s approval is a serious breach of our terms and conditions.”