MATT Hancock spoke yesterday of “significant concerns” that Leicester’s illegal clothing factories could have caused the spike in coronavirus cases in the city.
The Health Secretary admitted the Government is worried about “employment practices”.
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He told Sky News: “We have quite significant concerns about the clothing factories in Leicester.
“They are important problems to deal with but the number one problem we have to deal with is to get this virus under control.”
Police and health officials have visited ten factories after claims employees were being paid as little as £3 an hour and having to work very close together.
At least one business is known to have forced staff to continue working during lockdown.
An undercover reporter from the Sunday Times spent two days working in a factory that makes clothes for fashion giant Boohoo.
He was told to expect pay of £3.50 an hour, despite the national minimum wage being £8.72.
Footage showed him packing garments under the label Nasty Gal, a Boohoo brand.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: “Covid-19 has brought into focus what’s been going on.”
He says there could be 10,000 “slaves” at work in the city.
One clothing factory employee said: “Our shutters are down but we are still working.
“There are seven of us all in close proximity. It’s really hot and I am scared.”
The Sun says
IT SHAMES this country that modern slavery thrives in deprived pockets of UK towns and cities.
Leicester’s sweatshops — where desperate people are paid a pittance to work in horrific conditions — were an open secret long before the second Covid wave hit the city.
But everyone from the mayor to the Government turned a blind eye.
Now, we see the cost of that inaction.
If we are to “build Britain back better” — as the Prime Minister intends — he and his Government must start thinking about the quality of British employment, not just the quantity.
And if that means cracking down on profitable fast fashion companies paying taxes but bending labour laws, so be it.
Yesterday ex-minister Baroness Verma said Leicester’s mayor was warned in April about sweatshops operating during lockdown.
Tories wrote to the Labour council to flag the dangers.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has vowed a fresh crackdown on modern slavery.
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