Fast fashion giant Boohoo is again responding to reports of poor working conditions at one of its UK warehouses.
Workers at the group’s site in Burnley, Lancashire, say they work like “slaves” and are victims of racism, sexual harassment and ill-fitting safety equipment, according to an undercover investigation by The Times published this week.
Sweltering working temperatures can reach 32°C at night, according to the report, with an ambulance arriving on site once a month on average.
Commenting on the report, a Boohoo spokesperson said the group “takes any claim very seriously” but said it “does not believe the picture painted reflects the working environment at our Burnley warehouse”.
They said: “Making sure our people are safe and comfortable in their workplace is our top priority. That’s why more and more of our colleagues are choosing to stay here longer, with our turnover continuing to fall year after year.
“We offer generous wages, well above the national living wage, with additional benefits, including subsidized private health care. Through our employee engagement program, our colleagues tell us that they are happy with their work environment, feel valued and heard.”
Boohoo under fire again
This is the latest in a spate of scandals to hit Boohoo in recent years, the most notable being in July 2020 when a report from The Sunday Times alleged poor working conditions and illegal wages at some of its suppliers in Leicester.
Boohoo then launched an independent investigation of its UK supply chain, finding “many deficiencies” and causing it to cut ties with hundreds of suppliers.
The group, which has become one of the faces of the increasingly maligned fast fashion industry, was widely criticized for greenwashing in September when it appointed Kardashian Barker as its “sustainability ambassador.”
Critics, at the same time, pointed to Barker’s lack of background in sustainability and the broad vagueness of what her role would entail.
A pre-show of a power cut at the unveiling of the collaboration “may have been a sign of the climate gods expressing concern over what is essentially an exercise in greenwashing,” notes a previous FashionUnited op-ed.
Boohoo enjoyed high sales and profits during the pandemic as its business model of producing massive amounts of cheap fashion benefited greatly from the increased shift of shoppers to online channels during lockdowns and the burgeoning demand for comfortable, casual fashion.
The group, which owns the Nasty Gal, PrettyLittleThing, Misspap, Karen Millen and Coast brands, saw sales rise 14 percent to £1.98 billion in the year to February.
But that growth has slowed more recently, with the group issuing a profit warning in September as consumer demand fell and sales fell 10 percent in the six months to August.