Black Friday demo outside boohoo HQ following latest workplace revelations
A demonstration is being held outside the Manchester headquarters of online retailer boohoo today (November 25) following an undercover report into workplace conditions at its Burnley warehouse.
The demo, coinciding with Black Friday, one of the busiest periods for online retailers, follows calls by retail trade union Usdaw for talks with boohoo chief executive John Lyttle.
Usdaw is calling for an “open discussion without preconditions” with the company, which faced recriminations in 2020 over claims relating to workforce conditions at some of its suppliers, based in Leicester.
Leicester West MP, Liz Kendall, called on the fast fashion firm’s executive chairman, Mahmud Kamani, and John Lyttle, to step down, after she dubbed the firm’s Leicester supply chain as “one of the worst environmental, social and corporate governance scandals in modern UK history.”
The latest allegations follow a report by an undercover journalist who worked at the Burnley warehouse.
The Times reporter found that workers “are forced to walk the equivalent of a half-marathon per shift in a sweltering warehouse in which night-time temperatures can reach 32C. Staff label themselves ‘slaves’ and have complained of racism, sexual harassment, gruelling targets, inadequate training and ill-fitting safety equipment. The harsh conditions have led to workers collapsing in the aisles, with an ambulance called to the site once a month on average.”
Usdaw said it has since been inundated with calls from workers asking for assistance to help improve their working lives.
The union represents workers at the Burnley warehouse and call centre, along with the head office in Manchester, but said the company continues to refuse to recognise the union, leaving staff without a voice.
Mike Aylward, Usdaw regional secretary, said: “For some years we have been seeking a dialogue with boohoo to enable us to represent our members’ concerns, but we have been met with a wall of silence, while staff have been told in no uncertain terms not to engage with the union.
“So, on top of the issues discovered by an undercover reporter, staff feel like they have no way of raising issues with managers or finding resolutions to problems. That is why they need an independent trade union, to give them a voice at work.”
He added: “We have yet again asked boohoo to take the simple step of sitting down with Usdaw to explore how we can work together.
“Staff, the local community, councillors, MPs and campaign organisations all want this to happen, to help make boohoo an ethical trader.
“The company could go a long way towards repairing their damaged reputation by meeting with Usdaw and engaging in a positive relationship. Regrettably we have still received no response – for the sake of their employees we hope that will change.
“This Friday, Black Friday, we are joining a demonstration outside boohoo’s Manchester HQ, organised by Labour Behind the Label, to seek fairness and respect for fashion industry workers.
“We don’t want to be on the streets protesting, but while the company refuses to talk we have few alternatives. So our message to boohoo is clear, end your anti-union stance and refusal to talk because together we can resolve the very many issues your staff have endured over the years.”
TheBusinessDesk.com has contacted boohoo for a response.