New Tory-Backed Textile Lobby Group Backed By Leicester’s Labour City Council

On Monday 18th July the newly-formed Apparel & Textile Manufacturers Federation (ATMF) was formally launched at the Houses of Parliament with the support of the Tory government who have only just introduced a new law (which came into effect yesterday) that “means businesses will be free to provide scabs agency workers to fill staffing gaps exacerbated by strikes.” This formal launch followed on from “a recent and successful meeting” with various right-wing politicians, including “former Minister for Small Business, Paul Scully MP, Baroness Verma and Andrew Bridgen MP.”

In attendance at the formal parliamentary launch was Leicester’s Deputy City Mayor Adam Clarke whose Labour Council released a press release welcoming the launch of the new business lobby group which the Council say has “the aim of building a more ethical and sustainable textiles sector”. But somehow the Council’s own press release managed to forget to mention the central role that trade unions play in forcing bosses to promote more ethical business practices. Cllr Clarke therefore only offer the following useless quote to the media:

“The mobilising of manufacturers as a meaningful voice for the textiles sector has been an aspiration for some time and is a huge step forward. I congratulate all those involved for stepping up and showing such leadership, particularly during these challenging times. Leicester’s strong heritage in garment manufacturing puts the city in a great position to lead a resurgence in the industry – but this can only be done ethically by working together. This innovative new federation is a vital building block as we embed Leicester as a place offering well-paid, highly-skilled jobs, producing amazing garments in quality working environments.”

At the moment the only two major fashion brands that are working in partnership with the new Apparel & Textile Manufacturers Federation are ASOS and I Saw It First. ASOS is hardly the most ethical brand, as it has a longstanding commitment to exploiting its own British workforce. Only last October, the GMB noted how:

“The company has grown substantially during the pandemic, with income sky-rocketing while its warehouse workers are forced into high pick rates and refused toilet breaks. At the height of Covid, terrified workers branded the packed warehouse a ‘cradle of disease’.”

How much has changed at ASOS remains to be seen. However, if we turn to look at the background of I Saw It First, the only other brand working in partnership with the new business lobby, it is perhaps significant that this company was cofounded in 2017 by Jalal Kamani, who happens to be the brother of Boohoo founder Mahmud Kamani. (For more on Jalal Kamani’s connections to Leicester’s sweatshop industry see my earlier article “Who’s behind Boohoo? Investigating exploitation in the garment industry”).

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