Super-exploitation of workers in the textile sector is a global phenomenon, of which, Leicester sadly plays its own disgraceful role. And for the past few days fashion profiteer Missguided has been all over the news for failing to pay workers in their supply chain, including workers based in Leicester. As local MP for Leicester East, Claudia Webbe, tweeted yesterday:
“Missguided has failed to pay suppliers in Leicester East for months now. Workers have been laid off without pay or notice and factories relying on Missguided have closed. Not a single garment factory in Leicester has union recognition. We need a General Strike now.” (May 29)
This was the same Missguided that was allowed to join the Ethical Trading Initiative in 2019, but whose CEO, just one year later, still didn’t understand why workers might want to be in a trade union (see “Who is Missguided When it Comes to Workers Rights?”). Ironically this was also the same company that was one of the few fashion profiteers to get a mention in the TUC’s “Building partnerships, ending exploitation” report that was published in October 2021.
As the TUC report noted, positive relationships were established with just three major fast fashion giants which allowed the TUC (along with Unite and GMB) to get agreement that these companies should adopt ‘Workplace Support Agreements’ (WSA). “At its heart,” the TUC report explained:
“…a WSA is an agreement that brings together fashion brands, their suppliers and a union to guarantee workplace access for the union and a commitment from the union to represent individual and collective issues despite little or no membership…To date, we have commitment from ASOS, Missguided and New Look to implement with their Leicester supply chains.”
One wonders how serious Missguided ever was about entering in a partnership with any union, and it would be certainly interesting to hear more from the TUC about the progress (if any) that was made with this super-exploitative employer. The same also applies to any progress in terms of union engagement that may have been made at ASOS and New Look.
For more background on this issue, see my summary article “Some Examples of Organisational Responses to Racism and Sweatshop Abuses in Leicester (2020-21).”