Centre Member, Dr Nik Hammer, authors new report on Leicester's textile sector

Dr Nik HammerDr Nik Hammer, Lecturer in Employment Studies at the Centre for Sustainable Work and Employment Futures has been working with the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) on a new report examining Leicester's textile sector.

The 57-page report is based on 6 months research, comprising interviews with a wide range of stakeholders in UK garment and textiles sector; brands, retailers, suppliers, manufacturers, trade unions, community groups and workers.

The report highlights:

  • Apparel manufacturing in the UK has seen a striking revival since 2007. Between 2008-2012 the industry has grown by almost 11% mainly concentrated in major sourcing hubs such as the East Midlands, Manchester, and London.
  • The majority of workers in Leicester’s garment sector earn around £3 per hour (compared to a National Minimum Wage rate of £6.50), receive wages cash in hand, and do not hold an employment contract.
  • Some workers also complain about health problems, inadequate health and safety standards, verbal abuse, bullying, threats and humiliation.
  • Many employers only declare part of the hours worked and informally consider wages as a composite made of different parts: officially recorded hours at NMW rates; not recorded hours at around £3 per hour; and, at times, workers’ benefits are considered as part of the ‘package’.
  • In-work poverty is high: data from a small-scale survey conducted as part of the research point to an average monthly wage of £584 and a weekly household income of £229 (and these figures are likely to overstate actual wages and incomes across the Leicester garment sector).
  • Evidence collected as part of the research suggests that the underpaid wage sum for the East Midlands alone amounts to an estimated £1 million per week; in other words, the underpaid wages constitute 20% of the approximate gross value added of the industry.
  • These report findings do not apply to all workers across the board in the same way - the largest segment working under these conditions is made up by female workers who have been in the UK for more than 10 years, who either hold British citizenship or have a leave to remain and right to work status
  • The main reason many workers feel they must continue working in the garment sector is due to poor language, which are a barrier to them applying for jobs elsewhere. 70% of the small scale survey report they speak English only with difficulties and many do not have sufficient knowledge of their employment rights.
  • Another segment of workers is considered even more vulnerable than the majority of the workforce. These workers often have no or insufficient rights to work full-time, and work at lower wage rates and under conditions worse than the core group of workers.  Evidence suggests this group work in factories that have not been subject to social audits, producing garments that have been subcontracted without the knowledge of the lead firm or brand.

You can read the full report here

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