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World Boohoo facing possible US import ban after allegations over use of slave labour

08:55  02 march  2021
08:55  02 march  2021 Source:   news.sky.com

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US Customs and Border Protection has seen sufficient evidence to launch an investigation after petitions from a campaigning British lawyer. Duncan Jepson who runs Liberty Shared, a campaign group against modern-day slavery , claims Boohoo is not doing enough to stop forced labour in the In its global war on slave labour the US already bans many products, including certain Japanese video games, diamonds mined in Zimbabwe and furniture made in a Mexican jail. Image: Boohoo said auditors and investigators have found no evidence of modern-day slavery . The US Tariff Act 1930

Over the weekend, other media organizations, including Sky News and The Sunday Telegraph, published their own reports about conditions in the Leicester factories, and asked why the government has not done more to assist garment workers, and improve conditions on the factory floor. Boohoo argued that Jaswal Fashions “is not a declared supplier and is also no longer trading as a garment manufacturer. It therefore appears that a different company is using Jaswal’s former premises and we are currently trying to establish the identity of this company.

a hand holding a cellphone: Boohoo and many of its suppliers are facing the possibility of a US import ban © Other Boohoo and many of its suppliers are facing the possibility of a US import ban

The booming online fashion empire Boohoo and many of its suppliers are facing the possibility of a United States import ban because of widespread allegations over the use of slave labour.

US Customs and Border Protection has seen sufficient evidence to launch an investigation after petitions from a campaigning British lawyer.

Duncan Jepson who runs Liberty Shared, a campaign group against modern-day slavery, claims Boohoo is not doing enough to stop forced labour in the Leicester factories which make many of its clothes.

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The British government plans to investigate Boohoo ’s suppliers after media allegations of sweat shop conditions at factories in Leicester, England, a COVID-19 hotbed. LONDON – Shares in fast-fashion retailer Boohoo Group sank more than 10 percent to 3.48 pounds in mid-morning trading following weekend media reports of sweatshop conditions at its suppliers’ factories in Leicester, the northern English city that is in local lockdown after a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Mr Boohoo , 56, who built an empire that made him a billionaire says slave labour storm has 'taken He worked his way from a market trader to the billionaire fashion boss of Boohoo Kamani faced criticism over the working conditions his suppliers used for staff

Mr Jepson said: "The evidence of Boohoo and forced labour is quite compelling. I think it will be a wake-up call for British institutions about how they're handling modern slavery enforced labour, particularly in a community like Leicester East.

"What we'd all like, those of us interested in improving labour conditions, is for Boohoo to really get to grips with governance of their supply chain to ensure there is no wage theft and people have proper contracts.

a group of people posing for the camera: The company has expanded rapidly since it began in 2006 and has offices in Australia and California © Other The company has expanded rapidly since it began in 2006 and has offices in Australia and California

"It must look at all 11 indicators the International Labour Organisation sets out for forced labour and see there is compliance with those."

Last year Boohoo's sales in the US were £263.6m, more than a fifth of the company's total revenue.

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Over time, this exemption has effectively been broadened to facilitate the import of goods ranging from seafood to sneakers, one of many obstacles to government oversight over exporters profiting directly or indirectly from coerced labor . The reform follows critical reports exposing systemic labor violations, including enslavement, in Would imported chocolate that was made with cocoa sourced from child laborers in the Ivory Coast be intercepted through a customs check? How would a customs inspector evaluate Vietnamese-made sneakers imported from a law-abiding supplier, but with laces stitched by

Three major online retailers have dropped Boohoo over allegations of low pay and unsafe conditions. Boohoo 's shares fell a further 12% on Tuesday after a 16% slump the day before, following the publication of the allegations in the Sunday Times. Boohoo was already under fire after Labour Behind the Label, a workers' rights group, claimed that some employees at factories in Leicester that supply the fast fashion firm were "being forced to come into work while sick with Covid-19".

In its global war on slave labour the US already bans many products, including certain Japanese video games, diamonds mined in Zimbabwe and furniture made in a Mexican jail.

The US Tariff Act 1930 "prohibits the importation of merchandise mined, produced or manufactured, wholly or in part, in any foreign country by forced or indentured labour - including forced child labour. Such merchandise is subject to exclusion and/or seizure, and may lead to criminal investigation of the importer(s)".

The UK's former anti-slavery commissioner Kevin Hyland said: "If they do identify this in the supply chain in Leicestershire, the potential sanctions to not trade in the US are enormous.

"The aim of the petitions is very clear, that companies which think they can benefit from forced labour and the exploitation of others are shown that they cannot and will face a sanction that they can't trade in the world's largest economy.

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"Republicans ban US Import of certain slave -produced goods" just doesn't fit the narrative nearly as well. The 13th Amendment didn't completely ban slavery . It limited it to those 'duly convicted' of a crime. Prison labor is very widely used in the US . There are some numbers in this article. Prisoner make all military helmets in the US , 93% of paints and paintbrushes and about a fifth of all office furniture.

Iconic companies are reportedly using slave labor in their Chinese factories, in a horrific violation of human rights — making a mockery of their carefully crafted images as socially conscious. The Uighurs are a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority group. Instead of bending over backward to rectify allegations of troubling connections to human rights abuses, major American corporations have chosen to spend small fortunes lobbying to weaken the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in a blatant example of morally corrupt behavior.

"But what it will do as well is create a gap for good businesses to come in and pay people properly."

Boohoo, based in Manchester, has 14 million online customers and is thought to be the UK's fastest-growing fashion retailer. It sells clothes, shoes, accessories and beauty products to a mainly young, female market.

The company has expanded rapidly since it began in 2006 and has offices in Australia and California. Last year its sales rose 40% to £1.235bn, with profits of £92.2m.

But last summer a Sunday Times investigation exposed evidence of illegally low wages and poor working conditions in Boohoo's supply chain in Leicester, where 40% of its clothes were being manufactured.

The government set up a multi-agency task force, including the National Crime Agency, to investigate the claims.

In response, Boohoo asked lawyer Alison Levitt QC to review the working practices of its clothing manufacturers and she produced a damning report which found the allegations of poor working conditions "substantially true."

Her review prompted Home Secretary Priti Patel to say: "I am deeply concerned by the findings in this review, of illegal and unsafe working conditions."

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Saeed Khilji, chairman of the Textile Manufacturers Association of Leicestershire, said a US import ban would hurt, but insisted factory working conditions had improved.

He said: "If the American government took action and if they have enough evidence to do that, yes there will be an effect, but I'm sure now on there won't be a problem in Leicester. I'm 100% confident."

Boohoo said in a statement: "Over the past eight months we have been working closely with UK enforcement bodies and it is important to note that auditors and investigators who are forensically examining suppliers in Leicester have found no evidence of modern day slavery.

"We have taken action against 64 suppliers who did not meet the group's standards in the levels of transparency that business requires.

"If we were to discover any suggestion of modern-day slavery we would immediately disclose this to relevant UK authorities.

"We are confident in the actions that we are taking to ensure that all of our products meet and exceed the CBP (US Customs and Border Protection) criteria on preventing the product of forced labour entering the US (or any of our markets).

"The Group continues to make excellent progress as it works to implement the Review's recommendations and improve our supply chain in Leicester."

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