The chair of the environmental audit committee (EAC) has written to Boohoo to voice concern after it emerged that the fast fashion retailer refused to meet with trade union representatives this week.
Trade union Usdaw wants to meet with Boohoo to ensure staff at its warehouse in Burnley, Lancashire, “are [being] treated with dignity and respect”.
However, Boohoo said there continued to be “no interest” from its teams in joining a trade union.
In a letter to Boohoo’s executive director and former co-CEO Carol Kane, EAC chair Mary Creagh said: “I am writing to you following media reports that Usdaw continues to experience difficulties in establishing trade union recognition discussions with Boohoo. This is contrary to the evidence you gave to my committee last November, where you committed to union recognition ‘if the workers would like it’.
“As you will be aware, in our final report we recommended that Boohoo engage with Usdaw as a priority and recognise unions for your workers. I would therefore be grateful if you could tell me what steps you have taken to engage with Usdaw regarding formal trade union recognition at your Burnley warehouse site.”
Creagh also asked for an update on what progress Boohoo has made to recognise trade unions within its supply chain in the UK and overseas, and whether it has applied to join the Ethical Trading Initiative.
She concluded: “My committee has an ongoing concern about labour exploitation in the UK garment industry and would appreciate a timely response to these questions.”
Usdaw was planning to hold an “action day” at Boohoo’s headquarters and the warehouse today (7 June).
Its divisional officer Mike Aylward said: “Boohoo makes some pretty bold statements about ethical trading, but when it comes to giving their staff a voice through an independent trade union they are found wanting.
“Ethical trading is also about ensuring Boohoo’s directly employed staff are treated with dignity and respect. MPs listened to Usdaw’s evidence that countered Boohoo’s assertion that there was no demand for union recognition and we welcomed the recommendation for the company to engage with us as a priority, but the company continues to decline to engage.
“It is shameful that big companies like Boohoo won’t recognise Usdaw. Our members are unhappy with Boohoo’s position and want Usdaw’s support in raising and resolving workplace issues.”
In response, Boohoo said it has its own employee engagement programme, called Your Voice, which allows for a “frank exchange of views” and feedback on all aspects of working at the Burnley warehouse.
The forum meets monthly and key outcomes are published on noticeboards.
As a result of this programme, Boohoo has implemented a number of initiatives including improving its safety footwear, introducing a subsidised restaurant and a free on-site gym, and launching a group bonus scheme.
Boohoo said: “The people present at the meetings have been selected by their colleagues to represent the views of every shift and function at the site. As we have previously stated to Usdaw, our priority is to understand the views and opinions of our teams and what their wishes are regarding Union representation.
“We meet frequently with our teams to understand their level of interest in union representation. At the most recent meeting held to discuss this matter, just last month, there continued to be no interest from our teams.
“We will of course continue to source their views and monitor this closely. We do seek the views of our teams frequently and are about to embark on another round of staff surveys to supplement our face to face engagement forums.”