Textile manufacturing bosses have been urged to “end 19th century practices” as dozens of UK clothing factory workers were awarded nearly £90,000 in backpay after being denied minimum wage.
The figures, released by HMRC to MPs assessing sustainability in the fashion industry, comes amid “growing evidence” of workers being “criminally underpaid”.
Since 2012, 10 workers have been paid back £1,350 each – the equivalent of at least three weeks’ pay on minimum wage – and 126 workers have received an average of £900 after employers were forced to cough up.
The payouts were the result of investigations by the HMRC, of which 14 are ongoing, and the figures follow an inquiry into the UK textile industry by the Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee (EAC).
Committee chair Mary Creagh warned that poor payment is part of a “culture of fear and intimidation” in the nation’s textile industry.
The Labour MP said: “‘Made in the UK’ should mean workers are paid at least the minimum wage. It has been 20 years since the introduction of the minimum wage, but in our inquiry we heard that under payment is rife and goes hand in hand with a culture of fear and intimidation in the UK’s textile industry.
“This letter adds to the scandalous and growing evidence of workers being criminally underpaid in the UK.
“This must stop. We need government action to end these 19th century practices in 21st century Britain.”
The data comes amid growing awareness surrounding sustainable practices in the fashion industry more widely, which has led to a greater interest in products made in the UK.
Last June, the EAC launched an inquiry into ‘fast fashion’ – resource-heavy clothing made and sold cheaply and, often, unethically – to assess how manufacturing has changed in the UK and its impact on the environment.
The National Minimum Wage currently stands at £7.83 for over-25s, and will rise to £8.21 in April.