RETAIL union USDAW has condemned Boohoo owner Mahmud Kamani’s refusal to meet with them following a series of allegations about the company’s treatment of employees.
This was also prompted by Mr Kamani claiming before a committee of MPs last week that he could easily move the company, which maintains a large distribution centre in Burnley, overseas if its practices are scrutinised too closely.
USDAW officials have been frustrated by Mr Kamani telling the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee he would not meet with them because he personally, rather this his employees, did not wish to join the union, an explanation they described as ‘bizarre.’
USDAW divisional officer Mike Aylward said: “We have news for Mr Kamani, we don’t want him to join USDAW.
“The purpose of a meeting is to discuss securing recognition for USDAW’s members, so that they can have a proper voice in their working lives.”
USDAW’s campaign for recognition at the company has been ongoing over the course of this year and has won the backing of local bodies including North East Lancashire Trades Union Council and Blackburn and District Trades Union Council.
The campaign and investigations were brought about after a report in the summer revealed Boohoo had profited from ‘sweat shop’ conditions in its Leicester supply chain in which workers were paid as little as £3.50 an hour in some cases and in which health and safety standards were poor.
Closer to home, the firm has also faced an allegation that an agency worker at its Burnley warehouse suffered discrimination on the grounds of her disability.
The company has since said it is committed to reforming its practices, however USDAW believe that union recognition would be a crucial part of this process which, thus far, Boohoo has refused to engage with.
The fashion company has been criticised for low pay and poor conditions in its supply chain
Mr Aylward said: “Unfortunately, we believe Mr Kamani was being somewhat flippant and seeking to avoid questions about Boohoo’s continued anti-trade union stance at their warehouse, call centre and head office.
“While he tried to persuade MPs that Boohoo is cleaning up its act in their supply chain, he was less transparent on the rights of their directly employed workers to be represented by an independent trade union.
“It is very disappointing that Boohoo has not made any progress since the committee found nearly two years ago that ‘the company has, over a prolonged period of time, refused even the most basic level of engagement with USDAW and appears hostile to the very idea of recognising a trade union.’
“We suggest that Boohoo would go a long way towards repairing their damaged reputation by meeting with USDAW and engaging in a positive relationship.”
Despite his refusal to meet officials, Mr Kamani has said that employees are free to join trade unions if they wished and that he would work to improve the company’s practices.
Speaking to MPs he said: “I cannot possibly know everything in this business, but I do know this is a priority in our business.”
He added: “We are fixing this, we will make a better Boohoo.”