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Pakistan Requested More Boohoo Factories Despite Poor Labour Conditions

By Jacob Winter, BA Politics and International Relations

The caretaker Prime Minister of Pakistan, Anwaar-al-Huq Kakar, has asked the British fashion retailer Boohoo to increase its presence in Pakistan despite the company’s reputation for poor working conditions and pay. 

The invitation comes following a period of economic distress in Pakistan, with inflation at a record rate of 36.4 percent. According to the chairman of the Boohoo Group, Boohoo is interested in cementing its presence in Pakistan, including its linkages to Radio Pakistan.

Boohoo has a long history of poor labour conditions in many of its factories around the world. The Guardian reported in 2020 that workers were making the equivalent of 29 pence an hour for their labour and sometimes working up to 24 hours a day. Following the investigation, Boohoo suspended this supplier, but accusations of poor labour conditions have continued. 

Campaigning group Labour Behind the Label has accused the company of ‘regularly violating requirements for minimum wage and labour conditions,’ while paying their employees the equivalent of 68 pounds a month. 

Boohoo’s ventures in Pakistan have led them to join the Pakistan Accord, an agreement that establishes a framework for workplace safety in the garment industry which employs 45 percent of the country’s workforce.

The guidelines from the Pakistan Accord invite investment into the country while also protecting labour rights for an initial term of three years. This comes after Boohoo faced accusations of abandoning its factories in Leicester following allegations of modern-day slavery among suppliers that worked for them, choosing instead to favour suppliers in Pakistan. 

The Sunday Times revealed that the supplier for Boohoo in Leicester, Jaswal Fashions, was operating with no extra hygiene provisions during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. An anonymous worker also raised concerns surrounding pay, telling the Sunday Times “I can expect an hourly pay of £3.50, despite the national minimum wage being £5 more than that.” 

The clothes in the Leicester factory were from Nasty Gal, which is owned by the Boohoo Group. A foreman said: “These motherfuckers know how to exploit people like us. They make profits like hell and pay us in peanuts.” After the investigation, Boohoo cut ties with 64 suppliers in England and intended to move their business to Pakistan. 
Boohoo’s shift to Pakistan has drawn mixed reactions from Pakistani labour activists. Zehra Khan, General Secretary of the Women’s Workers Federation of Pakistan, said: “There is a need for investment, and Boohoo should invest in Pakistan. Many workers have been fired since COVID-19 and workers can’t make ends meet in this unprecedented inflation, but Pakistan should make policies which ensure that businesses flourish, and the policies should be pro-workers and employees and employers.”

Photo: Prime Minister Anwaar-al-Huq Kakar (centre) and Executive Chairman of the Boohoo Group, Abdullah Kamani (Official Twitter account of Government of Pakistan )

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