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The UK’s sweatshops need tough action taken against them, not tip-toeing around by officials afraid of being branded 'racist'

Damian Wilson
Damian Wilson
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
The UK’s sweatshops need tough action taken against them, not tip-toeing around by officials afraid of being branded 'racist'
Garment factories using immigrants as slave labour cannot be tolerated as “an open secret” because of fears about accusations of racism. That’s how Rotherham’s Asian grooming gangs got away with it, and it was disastrous,

Swift decisive action against those who own and operate the grim garment-making sweatshops of Leicester, where migrant workers are paid as little as £2 an hour, remains unlikely, as moves against them open up the authorities to accusations of racism.

The reaction of the local Asian community to employees being paid well below the National Living Wage is that the illegal salary is better than nothing, and that the way the garment factories operate is an “open secret”, according to a recent report.

An “open secret”? This isn’t about an office affair of which those involved think no one is aware. It’s about people, mainly immigrant Asian women, being exploited by greedy fast-fashion manufacturers selling clothes to top high-street and online stores for as much as they can, while shortchanging the staff who make them. It’s evil. Pure and simple.

If it’s such an open secret, then maybe those in the know can tell the authorities where they are and who runs them. It would be such a help. Viewing the matter as an Asian community issue that’s better left alone is not acceptable.

Where is Leicester City Council in all this? Where is the Health and Safety Executive, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, and the trades unions? It’s not for a lack of bodies that could act to prevent this illegality that nothing is seemingly being done, even if some of them have faced funding challenges or competing priorities in the past.

There’s something about the whole lack of action that seems familiar. It reminds me of the inaction over the grooming gangs of Pakistani-heritage men in Rotherham who targeted vulnerable white girls. Again, that seemed to be an “open secret,” and the authorities were reluctant to become involved back then too, for fear of being branded racist.

We are often told that Britain is a tolerant society, but this is too much, and we just look like mugs being played.

Any real discussion is avoided because social media nitwits and those obsessed with identity politics use allegations of racism to shut down anyone who dares speak out.

Take Home Secretary Priti Patel, who said the inaction against the Leicester sweatshops was the result of “cultural sensitivities” that meant acting against them might draw accusations of being racist.

How The Guardian liberals howled at that! Desperate for a headline to make a storm of Patel’s remarks, they manufactured outrage with the help of local MP Claudia Webbe. “That is outrageous!” she obliged – and there they had it: “Priti Patel criticised over comments on Leicester’s sweatshops.”

Criticized by one person. From the Opposition. That would be the same Labour Party from which a bunch of BAME MPs chose to write a bizarre letter to Patel a few weeks back accusing her of being a racist.

Also on rt.com ‘Haven’t got a clue’: Leicester mayor hits out at UK govt as health sec says authorities fighting 100+ Covid-19 outbreaks A WEEK

Anyway, you can see where The Guardian is heading: they cannot ignore any spark that can be fanned up into a racist blaze. Even if their target is of Indian extraction herself. Who’s calling who racist here?

And then there’s the decision from a Euronews reporter to remove from Twitter a video he filmed of the owner of one sweatshop attempted to intimidate him into abandoning an interview he was conducting with a whistleblower.

Lamely, he explains he didn’t want to cause any trouble for the worker. Not only is it too late for that, given his boss stood watching throughout the interview, but he could easily have obscured the guy’s face and left the post up for all the world to see as important testimony to his exposé.

Instead, he’s gifted the factory owner a free pass.

You can see how some media outlets are failing miserably in dealing with this scandal, and how their ineptitude is actually making matters worse.

But it’s not just the media – there’s something wrong with the law itself. Because a well-written law is unambiguous and an easy fit for the situation that, in this case, it’s supposed to remedy.

If a sweatshop making money off the backs of slave labour can’t be shuttered immediately on discovery of that fact, then clearly the Modern Slavery Act, despite coming into law just five years ago, is not fit for purpose and needs immediate review.

It was a year later that the National Living Wage was introduced. And just for the information of those criminals running the sweatshops, it’s currently £8.72 per hour and not the £2 they allegedly pay their workers. It might be a good idea to jot that down.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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