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EAC calls for Garment Trade Adjudicator

12 March 2021

The introduction of a Garment Trade Adjudicator could help stamp out non-compliance with labour market regulation in the UK garment industry, the Environmental Audit Committee has said.


In a letter to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Environmental Audit Committee reflects on evidence it has received of ongoing labour abuses in the domestic and international supply chains supplying UK fashion retailers.

Over the last three years the Committee has been shocked by reports of underpayment of wages and poor working conditions. Over the course of the follow-up work launched last year that resulted in an evidence session in December, it appears progress is being made in some areas, such as on environmental issues, but there remains a lack of progress on tackling labour exploitation.

The Committee heard from the Director of Labour Market Enforcement, Matthew Taylor, in December who said the idea of a Garment Trade Adjudicator is worth exploring.

As voluntary corporate social responsibility initiatives have failed to significantly improve pay and working conditions, the Government should therefore explore the introduction of a Garment Trade Adjudicator. 

Chair's comments

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said:

"The Committee has been shocked by revelations over the last three years of labour market exploitation, under our very noses, in certain quarters of the UK's garment industry.

"It is abundantly clear that voluntary corporate social responsibility initiatives are not leading to sufficient progress being made. Therefore, a compulsory initiative, such as the Garment Trade Adjudicator should be fully explored and consulted on.

"Brands and retailers often wield considerable economic power in comparison to the suppliers they source clothes from. A Garment Trade Adjudicator could help to ensure undue economic pressure is not placed on suppliers to cut corners on pay and conditions.

"We suspect this would have more effect, more rapidly, than introducing a licensing system on garment suppliers who tend to be smaller entities with less bargaining power than their customers.

"Only when brands and supply chains know that there is zero-tolerance to labour market abuses can we have confidence that workers will be paid properly and have appropriate working conditions."

Further information

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