Factory worker exposes poor working conditions and exploitation in clothing industry

Hema says she's speaking out now, so that action can be taken. She's been talking exclusively to our reporter Rajiv Popat.

A garment worker from Leicester has spoken out about the poor working conditions and pay within the industry.

'Hema' produces women's clothes for well known fashion brands. She says people like her "can't be ignored any more", after a Sunday Times investigation revealed dilapidated factory floors, hours of back-breaking work and workers being paid as little as £3.50 per hour.

Hema says she gets paid the minimum wage £8.72, but that wasn't always the case.

On Friday (September 25), the online fashion retailer, Boohoo, was criticised in a review for using factories which operated like sweat shops, with poor working conditions and low pay.

Boohoo said the review showed the company's business model was not founded on exploiting workers and admitted they need to go further and faster to improve.

Hema says although the conditons in the factory where she works are much better than those mentioned in the review, they're far from perfect. 

When asked whether there was any social distancing between workers, she told us: "No, not really because it's not a big place. The area is really small, there's no more than a metre between people."

Hena went on to describe how workers were shouted at and intimidated. If anyone complains, she says they are laughed at.

When ITV News Central contacted Hema's employer earlier today, the person who answered the phone told us:

"I categorically deny those claims and we do have signs telling people about the importance of sanitising their hands and social distancing."

The person wouldn't comment any further and said the owner would contact us - but we still haven't heard back from him.

A new multi-agency taskforce, led by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, has been set up to respond to The Sunday Times investigation. It has found evidence of factory workers being treated like modern-day slaves.

Made In Britain, an organisation which helps to find customers for British brands, told us most factory owners work in an ethical way and they insist that most treat their staff with respect.

Leicester employs around 10,000 people in fashion and textiles, in around 1,500 businesses. Hema believes the workers who are being badly let down. She says many of her friends feel trapped at work and unable to leave because they have rent and bills to pay. They want to reach for the sky and thrive - but the future looks bleak.

Read more: