The Workers Union has called for stronger regulation of the garment industry.
The news comes as the Home Office released an official response to a letter from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
The letter asked the government to consider an official system of licensing that would clamp down on illegal activity. Known as the ‘Fit-to-Trade’ licence, the scheme would check whether factory bosses are operating within the law.
The letter, which was organised by the BRC, was signed by nearly 100 retailers, and also included the signatures of NGOs, MPs and investors.
The BRC argues that for a factory to be allowed to operate, enforcement agencies would need to be satisfied that workers were protected from forced labour, debt bondage and mistreatment.
In response, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins acknowledged the value of licensing. However she also pointed to the risks of creating additional regulatory burdens on businesses that play by the rules.
In conclusion, Atkins said that ‘it is imperative that we have a strong evidence base to inform the options we are considering to protect vulnerable workers and drive up standards.’
The Workers Union Says
The last 7 months have shown us how important the working people of this country are to our national success story. Whether it’s those on the NHS front line or those keeping the wheels of industry turning, the bravery, commitment and skill of British workers has been admirable. But it’s clear that handclaps alone will not protect employees from exploitative practices.
Our ruling elite needs to ask serious questions of itself. For every pound in the bank of a millionaire business owner, there’s a legacy of labour that underwrites it. For every sports car and flash house, there’s the collective sweat of the working people that made it. Are British workers really to be dismissed as the unfortunate victims of occasional malice – a blip in an otherwise self-regulating capitalist system?
The history of industrial development tends to suggest otherwise. It has often been characterised by low-wages, poor working conditions and painfully slow progress. The recent events in Leicester are merely the latest episode in a long-running saga.
The Workers Union stands four square behind the need for greater regulation in the garment industry. So we say to the government: work with industry, unions and businesses to stamp out bad practice. Anything else would be a catastrophic failure of policy.
The Workers Union – Britain’s hardest working union