Workplace Notes

Leicester Garment Workers

In the biggest mobilisation of Asian workers in Leicester since the 70s, garment workers came out in force for a rally to start a major struggle for jobs, conditions and pay. Around 500 workers in the garment industry, now unemployed, gathered in Leicester’s Spinney Hill Park on Sunday, 1st October to protest the worsening conditions workers are facing amid factory closures in the city. Thousands of garment workers have been sacked already. This happened after campaigners revealed the appalling conditions in Leicester sweatshops, with many workers below minimum wage  and work in unsafe and dirty conditions.

Global fashion brands like Boohoo are cancelling orders in the UK to get them made in other countries at half the price, despite making millions in profits – while workers in Leicester are faced with factory closures, job losses and cuts in hours. They’re also demanding money back from suppliers on orders, forcing them to produce below cost.

Already the mainly women workers are having to do long hours at rates as little as £3.50 an hour – and now they’ve had enough.

Suppliers have warned that fashion brands sourcing garments in the city are demanding price reductions, often on orders of clothing already made and delivered, which is making businesses unviable. In turn, garment workers in Leicester report significant reductions in hours and factory closures, increasing pressure on already low paid workers on the frontline of the cost of living crisis. 40% of children in Leicester are living in poverty, including those where parents are in work.

Garment workers are calling on fashion brands to take urgent measures to support the industry in Leicester. They want brands to commit to orders from local suppliers with wages and standards safeguarded in the contract price, and for a long-term commitment to the area. At the rally, women spontaneously spoke from the crowd to express their anger and frustration at the lack of work as well as the discrimination they face. Women spoke of being given unpaid trial shifts, zero predictability of the amount of work they’d be offered and the struggle to access services and support without speaking English. Many speakers said that as soon as the legal minimum wage was enforced, orders dwindled and factory closures began. This shouldn’t mean that the struggle for better pay and conditions should be dropped for fear of redundancies.

Globalisation means that fashion bosses look for the cheapest production of garments worldwide, pushing for ever increasing lowering of pay and conditions. So, every workplace that accepts a lowering of pay and conditions, whether in the UK, China, the sub-continent,  or other countries in the Far East, contributes to this downward spiral. Any strike for better pay and conditions contradicts the garment bosses’ plans, and sends out a message to clothing workers all over the world not to give in to this blackmail.

Amazon workers go on strike in Germany and Italy

Workers at Amazon warehouses in Bad Hersfeld, Leipzig, Koblenz and Rheinberg in Germany  went out on strike for an hour during both morning and afternoon shifts on 10th and 11th October. This coincided with Amazon’s Prime Day in Germany, a promotional sales day. Workers demanded that Amazon join the collective bargaining agreement in the rest of German retail and mail order, and for safer jobs and better compensation.

 In Italy, one hundred workers at the Amazon warehouse in Castel San Giovanni  went out for a hour on each of the morning and afternoon shifts on October 11th, and struck again on October 17th, in rejection of Amazon’s ludicrous annual pay offer of 1.1%.

Sales on Prime Day are higher than average, and these strikes will have hit Amazon’s profits. In Germany alone, Prime Days in July brought them a whopping $12.9 billion.