Fashion supply chain 'adjudicator' mulled by UK government after labour scandals
Tightening relations between major UK fashion retailers and their suppliers is being considered by the UK government. A cross-party group of MPs is mulling the introduction of a clothing trade adjudicator, similar to the one employed to oversee the grocery industry, according to The Guardian newspaper.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the government was also discussing a possible licensing scheme for clothing manufacturers.
The newspaper said former director of Labour Market Enforcement, Matthew Taylor, has backed the moves amid concerns that voluntary measures have failed to make substantial improvements to pay and working conditions for those in the fashion industry supply chain.
Those issues were highlighted this year and last as fast-fashion seller Boohoo came under close scrutiny over working conditions and practices at factories in the UK and abroad.
Kwarteng is understood to have written to MPs saying an adjudicator had worked well in the grocery industry, “ensuring large grocery retailers treat their direct suppliers lawfully and fairly” by enforcing an industry code of conduct.
The grocery adjudicator has the power to fine large retailers up to 1% of UK turnover and has investigated issues at companies including Tesco, the Co-op and Morrisons, instructing them to make changes to working practices.
In the letter to the parliamentary environmental audit committee, seen by the Guardian, Kwarteng said officials had discussed the proposal for a similar scheme in the garment trade with campaigners.
But he cautioned: “There are significant differences between the groceries sector and the fashion industry, in terms of scale and distribution of market share, so we need to understand whether this model would be as effective in driving compliance in garment manufacturing”.
Kwarteng added that the government was also discussing a potential licensing scheme for clothing manufacturers that could give more assurance to retailers and that he would “bring forward” proposals for a single employment rights enforcement body.
He noted that the government had been “encouraging companies to honour existing orders” on clothing bought in countries such as Bangladesh during the pandemic.
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