Socialist Worker

Tories—not ‘political correctness’—are why sweatshops stayed open

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2713

Home secretary Priti Patel said unsafe workplaces werent closed due to political correctness fears

Home secretary Priti Patel said unsafe workplaces weren't closed due to 'political correctness' fears (Pic: Number 10/Flickr)


Workers in Leicester were pushed to work in unsafe conditions for less than the minimum wage during the pandemic.

One textile worker told the BBC he had worked throughout the lockdown, sometimes sitting 80 centimetres away from other workers who didn’t wear masks.

He said up to 40 people could touch a single garment. “There is a big problem, a very big problem, with the factories,” he said. “I worked through the last quarantine. I felt bad—it was a lockdown and everyone should stay at home.

“I carried on working because I have three children, a wife and parents to support in Afghanistan. I put my life at risk to support them.”

He “blamed the government” for failing to protect workers’ conditions.

Another worker said he got around £6 an hour in the factories. “If the government made sure everyone got enough money to survive during the pandemic, no one would come into the factories,” he said.

“But I was worried about food, about living. I think my story is very typical.”

Leicester—how a city at risk has been failed by the Tories
Leicester—how a city at risk has been failed by the Tories
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And another man said his aunt had died after returning to work in a factory and contracting the virus within five days.

Fashion brand Quiz said one of its Leicester-based suppliers is likely to have used a subcontractor alleged to have breached the national living wage.

A reporter for the Times newspaper went undercover at one of the factories. She said bosses told her she had to work unpaid for two days before getting a job that would pay between £3 and £4 an hour. The living wage is £8.72 for people over 25 years old.

Disgracefully Tory home secretary Priti Patel has tried to blame “political correctness” for the dire working conditions.

She claimed “cultural sensitivities” stopped police and government agencies from tackling it, because they feared being called racist.

She compared the situation with the child sexual exploitation scandal in Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

Fear of being called racist did not cause police indifference to abuse in Rotherham, nor has it caused sweatshop conditions in Leicester.

The real problem in both cases is that working class people aren’t seen as worth protecting.

The terrible conditions in Leicester’s textile factories have been known about—and raised in parliamentary reports—for years. The Tories refuse to act because they back bosses against workers.


Farm outbreak shows the danger of unsafe workplaces

Some 73 workers at a Herefordshire farm, run by AS Green and Co, tested positive for Covid-19 last week.

Meting out misery - coronavirus outbreaks and the meat industry
Coronavirus and the meat industry
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The 200-strong workforce has been quarantined on the farm.

Workers stay in mobile homes based on the farm during the harvesting season. Authorities said the entire workforce is now being treated as “one extended bubble”.

A statement from Herefordshire Council and Public Health England said workers began showing symptoms in the week beginning 6 July.

It’s the latest example of how workplaces can become breeding grounds for the virus.


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