GMB call on government to change enforcement of national minimum wage

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GMB call on government to change enforcement of national minimum wage after Boohoo internal report exposes utter failure of HMRC to deal with underpayment in UK clothing factories

Unions must be given the power to be able to report non-compliance to HMRC on behalf of members which the law does not allow says GMB London  

GMB London, the union for workers in the clothing and textiles sectors, is calling on the UK Government to change the rules so that workers can report underpayment of the National Minimum Wage to their union so that the union can ask HMRC to enforce the proper rates. The current legislation requires that workers have to report underpayment direct to HMRC thereby exposing themselves to victimisation. 

The urgency of this change is highlighted by the recently published BooHoo internal report by Alison Levitt QC on compliance in the UK supply chain. See below notes to editors for link to the report. 

On payment of the National Minimum wage, Alison Levitt’s report found that from a representative sample of employers in Leicester. “35 out of 49 companies in the sample reviewed had at least one non-compliance in relation to payment of the national minimum wage in at least one audit.” 

GMB London looked at the record of HMRC in uncovering this level of non-compliance in the clothing sector in Leicester from the published Name and Shame list from July 2015 until HMRC stopped publishing this list in July 2018. Not a single employer is listed during this three years. See below notes to editors for links to the HMRC name and shame lists. 

It’s not as if the company buying the clothes can be relied upon to enforce minimum standards. 

This is a quote from Alison Levitt’s report: 

“For the Review we made what we thought was a straightforward request, namely to be provided with a list of Boohoo’s Tier 1 and Tier 2 Leicester suppliers. Such a list has never materialised and it is now clear to us that it doesn’t exist.” 

Why this might be the case emerges from another statement from the founder and an owner of BooHoo Mahmud Kamani who is quoted in the report saying: 

“We have a duty of care. We have our audits and processes to make sure people we work with have a duty of care to their people. You wouldn’t want someone like my mother, a machinist being treated badly in any workplace. You wouldn’t want that. For humanitarian reasons you wouldn’t want that. You don’t want that in any part of life.... 

“I’m not a government body... the way we run our warehouse is my responsibility...the way we run our business is my responsibility... my management style is my responsibility... the way we treat our people is our responsibility, but if we’re subsequently getting so many garments made in Leicester and there is maybe 20 or 30 thousand machinists, is that my responsibility? If they then eat too many chapatis and become obese, is that then my responsibility? I don’t know where this goes”. 

Warren Kenny, GMB regional Secretary for London and East of England said: 

“HMRC should hang their heads in shame as they read Alison Levitt’s fine report on the extent to which HMRC utterly failed to do the job Parliament gave them to do of enforcement of the national minimum wage for the lowest paid workers in the UK. 

“There have to be changes after Alison Levitt’s report.  

“The report exposes that BooHoo don't actually know who their supplier are and the ‘if the 20 or 30 thousand machinists eat too many chapatis and become obese’ quote raises proper questions about whether they actually care. 

“This report shows the futility of relying on the employers and retailers to ensure that their workers in the supply chain are treated fairly. It also shows the absolute necessity of beefing up the enforcement mechanism open to workers. 

“Workers need to be able to turn to their union for help in enforcement of the national minimum wage and other employment standards. Unions must be given the power to be able to report non-compliance to HMRC on behalf of members which the law does not allow. 

"In addition, HMRC should beef up its own inspection regime and resume with immediate effect publishing the Name and shame list that they stopped publishing over two years ago.” 



Vaughan West, GMB London Region Political Officer 079 6734 2197 

Shaun Graham GMB London Region Senior Organiser(Manufacturing) 078 8570 6556 

Notes to editors: 

BooHoo report: 

HMRC name and shame list: