The decision by 5 major online retailers (Amazon, Very.com, Next, Asos and Zalando) follows a series of allegations against the fast fashion brand, which revealed that workers in a Leicester factory were being paid just £3.50 an hour and were required to continue working without additional protection, during the city’s localised lockdown.
Next stopped selling Boohoo clothes on its website last week, following repeated reports of abuses at Boohoo suppliers from campaign organisation Labour Behind the Label. Asos and Zalando followed suit yesterday, after an undercover investigation by The Sunday Times appeared to confirm the allegations. They were joined today by Very.com and Amazon.
Boohoo has denied responsibility but committed to investigate its Leicester supplier Jaswal Fashions, after The Times report found that workers were being paid £5 under the minimum wage of £8.72 an hour and that the factory had continued operating during Leicester's localised lockdown without additional hygiene or social distancing measures. The investigation, published on the 4th July, included footage of garments bearing the Nasty Gal label, owned by Boohoo.
A spokesperson for Next said, “In response to the report from Labour Behind The Label, Next concluded there is a case for Boohoo Group to answer. As a result, last week Next removed the Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing branded items it was selling previously, from all Next websites. Nasty Gal [also owned by Boohoo] was not being sold by Next.”
"Next is not pre-judging the outcome of this process and no final decision has been made, however, while there is a case to answer, these labels will remain suspended from all Next websites," the spokesperson said.
Investigating the allegations
Boohoo said: "We are taking immediate action to thoroughly investigate how our garments were in their hands, will ensure that our suppliers immediately cease working with this company, and we will urgently review our relationship with any suppliers who have sub-contracted work to the manufacturer in question."
It has said that Jaswal Fashions, which appeared in The Times report, was not one of its declared suppliers and was no longer trading as a garment-maker. It believes that another firm is using the former Jaswal premises and is seeking to establish the identity of the company.
However, it is not the first time Boohoo has been warned about allegations of abuse within its Leicester supply chain, with an ongoing campaign from Labour Behind the Label to improve conditions.
Meg Lewis, Campaigns Manager for Labour Behind the Label, said:
“We have repeatedly called on Boohoo to improve labour rights in their supply chain, yet they have failed to take meaningful action. The surge in Boohoo’s profits during the COVID-19 crisis is directly linked to their disregard of responsible sourcing.”
“As the biggest brand sourcing from Leicester, Boohoo calls the shots in the local supply chain,” said Dominique Muller, Policy Director for Labour Behind the Label.
“Government authorities must recognise that the lack of proper legislation and monitoring is endangering workers lives – it is time to ensure that workers in Leicester are protected and better practice in the garment industry respected.”
Government investigation into slave labour at Leicester factories
The report comes a week after home secretary Priti Patel asked the National Crime Agency to investigate modern slavery in Leicester's clothing factories. The Sunday Times and Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen approached Patel, after being contacted by whistleblowers about alleged illegal practices in the factories. Patel described the allegations as "truly appalling". However, Bridgen said he had repeatedly raised concerns with the government over the past year and felt he had been ignored.
Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health & Social Care, told Sky News: "Well we’ve seen outbreaks in food factories and in clothing factories. There are some quite significant concerns about some of the employment practices in some of the clothing factories in Leicester. They are important problems to deal with, but the number one problem that we’ve got to deal with is getting this virus under control."
Boohoo's share price tumbled by more than 16% on Monday and a further 12% on Tuesday following the exposé.