Impacts of Brexit on the modern slavery in supply chains

The last week of June 2016 we saw 52% of voters in a UK referendum vote for the UK to depart the European Union (EU).

What might the implications of the UK leaving the EU be for those working in the garment industry?

Firstly, the UK pound sunk to its lowest exchange rate in around 30 years. This may mean some companies find producing more garments, furniture, or food in the UK more affordable again.

I mention these industries as many large UK retailers currently still buy percentages (usually tiny) of their global sourcing of these products from factories and farms in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Furthermore, in recent years UK media and NGOs have reported on maltreatment and exploitation of some of the workers, usually non-British, making these goods. As part of the departure of the U.K. from the EU, a large promise to the electorate was to end the freedom of movement for employment of any citizen of any of the 27 EU member countries.

Here is the interesting part.

British companies will still need workers to sew clothes for the High Street fashion stores whose fast fashion will be cheaper than ever for the global shoppers!

Perhaps in the coming 2-4 years British companies will ask for special temporary seasonal work visas for the workers many employers claim to have found hardworking from Eastern Europe.

The change will be though that such temporary workers visas would likely be tied to one employer.

Before Brexit, if such a worker was maltreated by their employer or an agent or gangmaster they could seek British police support for labour law enforcement, and had the freedom to, if need be, move employer.
On a visa tied to a single employer though, a worker may risk being sent back to their home country for reporting abuse, therefore be less likely to report all but the worst abuse.

Is it really the way we should treat people who just try to make a living?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *