Black Friday: Manchester Uni students and trade unionists protest outside Boohoo HQ

‘A world without fast fashion is a fairer world for all’

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Members of the trade union Usdaw joined forces with Labour Behind The Label, Extinction Rebellion and Manchester University’s People and Planet society to target fast-fashion giant Boohoo on Friday morning.

The coalition of campaigners used the context of the Black Friday sales to urge the company to reduce its environmental impact, improve working conditions in its supply chain and call attention to the consequences of fast fashion.

Usdaw represents workers in Boohoo’s warehouse and call centre in Burnley, as well as in their head office. Usday say Boohoo refuses to recognise the union, leaving staff without a voice at work. Boohoo refutes this.

The protest comes after a reporter at The Times went undercover at a Boohoo warehouse where allegedly “workers call themselves slaves”.

The investigation alleged “workers are forced to walk the equivalent of a half-marathon per shift in a sweltering warehouse in which night-time temperatures can reach 32 degrees.

“Staff label themselves ‘slaves’ and have complained of racism and sexual harassment

“The harsh conditions have led to workers collapsing in the aisles, with an ambulance called to the site once a month on average.”

At the time, Boohoo told The Times: “Whilst we take these claims very seriously, they are not reflective of the environment at our Burnley warehouse or our colleagues’ experiences working for Boohoo.

“Making sure our people are safe and comfortable in their workplace is our highest priority.” The company also said it provided water bottles and fountains as well as fans on every floor. A spokesperson added: “Our colleagues tell us that they are happy with their work environment.”

Mike Aylward, Usdaw regional secretary says Usdaw has attempted to build a relationship with Boohoo to establish safer conditions for its staff, but have been met with “a wall of silence”.

Usdaw has been inundated with calls from workers asking for assistance but the union states that Boohoo continues to tell staff not to engage with them. The fast-fashion retailer has denied this.

UoM’s People and Planet society told the Tab Manchester: “It was empowering to have people walking past being supportive and drivers honking their horns in solidarity.

“Black Friday is a day where toxic beauty standards are placed on us to make us feel as though we have to buy even more stuff just to feel confident.

“The system is so flawed and unjust that the only people who benefit from this are CEOs.

“A world without fast fashion is a fairer world for all.”

The campaigners hoped to demonstrate how 10p bikinis and flash fast-fashion sales are damaging our world while those making the clothes allegedly suffer under unfair and unethical conditions.

Regarding the Usdaw complaints, a Boohoo spokesperson told the Tab Manchester: “We completely reject these claims. We respect people’s right to join a trade union if they choose to do so.

“Indeed, we have been working constructively with trade unions in Leicester to facilitate introductions with manufacturers in our supply chain. We have an extensive colleague engagement programme that allows people to speak openly and honestly about their working environment.

“Through these forums, our people tell us they are happy and feel valued, and there is little support for unionisation. Therefore, we believe it would be unfair to impose one on them.”

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