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High street takes a stand on modern slavery

High street retailers have joined forces with enforcement bodies to help stamp out modern slavery in the UK textile industry.

John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, New Look, Next, River Island and Shop Direct have signed a joint agreement that aims to tackle exploitation in fashion and textile manufacturing.

By signing the Apparel and General Merchandise Public and Private Protocol, the retailers have pledged to raise awareness to prevent worker exploitation, protect vulnerable employees, disrupt exploitative practices and help bring criminals to justice.

Enforcement bodies including the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), Department for Work and Pensions, Employment Agency Standards inspectorate, Health and Safety Executive, Customs and Revenue, Immigration Enforcement and the Insolvency Service have also signed the document, which is supported by industry bodies British Retail Consortium, UK Fashion and Textile Association, and auditing system Fast Forward.

Prime minister Theresa May said: “Modern slavery is an abhorrent crime that denies its victims of liberty, and it is disturbing to think that some of the products we buy could have been produced by someone exploited into forced labour.

“As global leaders in the fight against modern slavery, I am clear that this will not be tolerated in the UK – and our consumers won’t stand for it either. “

GLAA director of operations Ian Waterfield said: “Tens of thousands of people are employed in the textiles industry in the UK and it contributes billions of pounds to the UK economy. That alone makes it an attractive proposition for unscrupulous employers and criminals who exploit workers.

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