Factory workers are being paid as little as £3.50 an hour to produce clothes for Boohoo and Nasty Gal in cramped warehouse conditions in Leicester, it’s claimed.
Employees at Jaswal Fashions, based where the UK’s first localised lockdown has been introduced, are said to work for less than half the national minimum wage.
In an undercover investigation by The Sunday Times, a reporter at the warehouse filmed himself packing garments clearly labelled as Nasty Gal.
The footage showed no additional hygiene or social distancing measures in place, despite a second outbreak of the virus in the city.
In one clip, he was approached by the factory foreman, who claimed: “They make profits like hell and pay us in peanuts.
“Take me for instance, I’ve been working for so many years in this industry, I’ve been here for five years but never could I take a proper pay packet. I’m still only on just over £5 an hour.”
The footage comes as home secretary Priti Patel asked the National Crime Agency (NCA) to investigate modern slavery in Leicester’s clothing factories.
Last week, a workers’ rights group accused the online fashion retailer of putting workers at risk of catching coronavirus.
Behind the Label, which campaigns for employment rights, said it had received reports of “workers being forced to come into work while sick with Covid-19, workers wishing to isolate being denied pay, (and) factories operating illegally throughout lockdown”.
Priti Patel said: “I will not tolerate sick criminals forcing innocent people into slave labour and a life of exploitation.
“Let this be a warning to those who are exploiting people in sweatshops like these for their own commercial gain.
“This is just the start. What you are doing is illegal, it will not be tolerated and we are coming after you.”
Mirror Money contacted Boohoo for a comment on the wage conditions.
It said it would terminate relationships with any supplier who was found not to be acting within its code of conduct.
We were unable to contact Jaswal Fashions for a statement.
“The boohoo group categorically does not tolerate any incidence of non-compliance especially in relation to the treatment of workers within our supply chain and we have terminated relationships with suppliers where evidence of non-compliance with our strict code of conduct is found,” Boohoo told Mirror Money.
“During the first few weeks of lockdown, where guidance meant that we were unable to complete on-site compliance visits, our buyers, in-house compliance team, senior team and CEO were in constant contact with our suppliers.
“This included using video inspections and constant reiteration of our expectations on social distancing and hygiene measures.
“Additionally we made available sufficient amounts of PPE and hygiene products free of charge to any supplier that needed them to ensure that these were available for their teams, so there is no reason that these would not be available.
“As a business, we have invested heavily to ensure that we meet and exceed the guidance relating to self-isolation, social distancing and hygiene standards to ensure that every boohoo workplace is as risk free as possible.
“We therefore do not condone any supplier that disregards the very clear guidance on dealing with those affected by Covid-19 and we will immediately look into the claims made in this report.”
Mahmud Kamani, the founder of Boohoo and its subsidiaries Nasty Gal and PrettyLittleThing, is reported to be worth £1billion – though his £50million annual bonus could be thrown in doubt following the allegations.
The empire saw almost £400million wiped off its value on Monday when the markets reopened, following slavery claims over the weekend.
Its shares closed at 387.5p on Friday, valuing the group at £4.88billion, but when trading opened this morning they plunged 7.36% to 358.99p per share.