A new investigation has exposed working conditions in factories supplying some of Britain's leading fashion chains.
An undercover reporter from Channel 4's Dispatches documented factory bosses paying workers as little as £3 per hour to make clothes for River Island, Boohoo, Missguided and New Look at factories located in the UK.
Hidden cameras recorded bosses refusing to agree a payment rate with the reporter before beginning to work in their factories.
When he told one boss that in previous jobs he had been paid the legal minimum wage for workers over 25 of £7.20 per hour (€8.70) - the manager replied:
"You won’t get that here. That’s what I’m telling you. We don’t get paid much for our clothes, and we need to compete with China and Bangladesh. They can get it cheap there. How will they get it made cheaper here? If we pay everyone £10 or £6 then we will make a loss."
...We are investigating this issue and will take appropriate action. #Dispatches (4/4)
— River Island (@riverisland) January 23, 2017
Is this case he was paid £3 (€3.48) per hour by the business which was making garments for River Island.
The investigation captured factories manufacturing goods for the four retailers paying employees between £3 and £3.50 per hour.
It also documented serious fire safety issues, including blocked emergency exits and staff smoking next to flammable materials.
A River Island spokesperson told Newstalk that the factory featured in the show was sub-contacted and has been, "Removed from our Approved Factory List in February 2016, following two failed River Island audits. Suppliers were informed not to use this factory for any further River Island orders.
"We are investigating this issue and will take appropriate action. Sub-contracting without River Island’s approval is a serious breach of our Terms and Conditions," the statement continued.
Meanwhile, Boohoo also said that the manufacturing documented in the programme was sub-contracted by another factory.
— Channel 4 Dispatches (@C4Dispatches) January 24, 2017
"Boohoo takes its supply chain very seriously and has rigorous processes and systems in place with which all suppliers have to comply. United Creations (the factory in the show) is not a direct supplier to Boohoo and since Dispatches kindly drew this to Boohoo's attention we have taken it up with both our direct supplier and had a member of our compliance team visit United Creations last week," the online retailer told Newstalk.
A New Look spokesperson said, “New Look is committed to respecting and improving the lives of workers right across our global business and supply chains, so we are extremely concerned by the outcome of this investigation.
"We have worked hard over the past few years to address potential weaknesses in our supply chain. As a result we have reduced the number of UK suppliers we work with by 80% since 2011. This news is therefore a disappointing and saddening setback for us."
The company noted that it has stopped using this factory.
Missguided also commented on the show: "We have suspended production with the factory in question with immediate effect and are committed to finding a resolution to these concerns with the best interests of the workers as a priority."
The second part of this investigation will air on Monday, January 30th.