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24 February 2021

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Garment workers and Covid: Dying for less than minimum wage

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Heather Rawling, Leicester Socialist Party

Garment workers have among the highest rate of coronavirus deaths for working women in the UK, the Office for National Statistics has revealed. Labour Behind the Label estimates that sewing machinists, in particular, had the highest fatality rate - almost four times the overall death rate for women.

I am not surprised at these shocking figures. The garment industry is largely unorganised with extreme exploitation.

Last year, during a Covid-19 spike in Leicester, the virus was most prevalent in the textile industry - a thriving underworld of sweatshops, paying between 3 and 5 an hour, well below the minimum wage.

Many of these factories continued to work throughout lockdown. Workers, mainly women, were forced to work in unsafe and unhealthy conditions even before Covid. Social distancing, clean toilets and good hygiene are rare.

Most textile workers live in extremely overcrowded conditions. Parts of Leicester are among the most overcrowded in the UK, outside of London, home to a large black, Eastern European and migrant population.

75-80% of these factories supply orders for online fashion retailer Boohoo. Boohoo's market value has more than doubled to 2.3 billion since 2014.

Textile workers have been let down by Leicester Labour Council, which has failed to act over a number of years despite knowing about the illegal wages and unsafe working conditions.

Unfortunately, the Midlands Trades Union Congress (TUC) has also been guilty of a dereliction of duty. Lee Barron, regional secretary, has simply called on the Tory government to "use its much-delayed employment bill to make firms liable for abuses in their supply chains."

But the Tory government acts in the interests of firms like Boohoo, not in the interests of the workforce. These exploitative firms should be nationalised under democratic workers' control and management.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 24 February 2021:


Covid

Where's the road map to jobs and wages Boris?

Johnson's 'road map' for schools: Act together to protect safety

Vaccine algorithm can't solve capitalist inequality

Garment workers and Covid: Dying for less than minimum wage


What we think

Starmer's speech a return to New Labour


News

Justice for Moyied Bashir

Uber drivers win case - they are workers

Social care: End privatisation and let workers decide how it's run


Lessons from history

How militant trade unionism defeated the 1971 Industrial Relations Act


Workplace news

Usdaw elections - right makes gains but Broad Left builds

HMRC: Divisive pay deal leads to expulsions

Hinkley Point electricians fight 'deskilling'

"I'm here to fight for the future education of children in Hackney"

London bus dispute against low pay, pay cuts and longer hours

GMB members continue fight against 'fire and rehire' in British Gas

Scunthorpe steelworks scaffolders: Fifth week of action


TUSC

Liverpool Unite branch supports 'no cuts' budget strategy

Scottish TUSC election campaign launch

Keep the fighting fund rushing in for a TUSC stand in May


Campaigns news

W. Sussex children's centres on the chopping block

Coventry success building subscriptions

Socialist Students conference - postering

Save John Carroll Leisure Centre

Getting the Socialist out in lockdown


LGBT+ history month

Pride flag is about unity in struggle

Tories tout toilet tensions


International news

Nigeria: Abbey Trotsky on trial for assisting workers' struggle

Facebook v Australian government: nationalise the bosses' media!


Readers' opinion

Film Review: The White Tiger

Tories admit guilt for asylum seeker neglect

Tories target universities in free speech shakedown

The Socialist Inbox


 

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Related links:

Covid:

triangleLondon: #BuhariMustGo protests are back

triangleLow-paid workers shouldn't pay for Covid crisis

triangleWaltham Forest Socialist Party: What next in the fight against Covid austerity?

triangleProtesting is not a crime

triangleTUSC eve of poll national public zoom meeting

Workers:

triangleCouncillors have a choice - don't vote for cuts

triangleBristol Water walkout

triangleMarley Tiles workers strike against bullying bosses

triangleSparks' protest in Cardiff; each week the protest has grown. Sparks are protesting nationally against the role of construction electricians being deskilled. Photo by Rachel Barwell

Minimum wage:

triangle'Sleep-ins' ruling must lead to a huge campaign for social care workers' rights

triangleUnion fight to save musicians' livelihoods

Union:

triangleGMB general secretary election: A fighting, socialist leadership needed

triangleElect a socialist leadership to fight for national action and a united campaign

Leicester:

triangleSPS Technologies workers strike against potential pay loss of 3,000 a year

Textile:

triangleLeicester socialists fight poverty-paying sweatshops

Article dated 24 February 2021

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Sparks protest in Cardiff

Sparks' protest in Cardiff; each week the protest has grown. Sparks are protesting nationally against the role of construction electricians being deskilled. Photo by Rachel Barwell

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