“Join us to act now”
As Leicester Garment and Textile Workers Trust launches with a Â£ 1million donation from the Boohoo Group, Chairman Kevin McKeever talks about the trust’s goals and aspirations.
On October 15, the Leicester Garment and Textile Workers Trust was launched to address some of the immediate and future needs of people working in the local clothing industry. The organization received a donation of Â£ 1million from Boohoo Group.
The directors are Tim Nelson, CEO of the modern slavery nonprofit Hope for Justice; David Lindley, Leicester second lieutenant; Alison Tripney, Community Manager at Leicester City Football Club; city ââcouncilor Luis Fonseca; Kevin McKeever, founder and director of communications consulting firm Lowick Group; and Cheryl Chung, head of corporate affairs at Boohoo Group.
The trust commissioned the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham, which focuses on academic research on modern slavery, to provide research to determine the purpose and scope of the trust. The results will be published in early 2022. Chairman of the board and founder and CEO of reputation and political risk consultancy Lowick, Kevin McKeever, explains why trust is needed now.
The historic issues surrounding labor standards in Leicester’s garment industry have been widely covered. As manufacturers, retailers and public sector organizations seek to ensure that the city’s commerce is sustainable over the long term, it’s hard not to be struck by a glaring challenge: ensuring that workers are aware of their rights, both in the workplace and in society at large, and feel confident enough to exercise them.
Time and time again, in conversations with people involved in the local clothing trade, it has become clear to me that while there are various charities and organizations that do a good job in the city, the workers have always limited access to quality advice or support. Without the knowledge and confidence to protect their own well-being, many workers have been exposed to various forms of exploitation by a minority of unscrupulous individuals.
That’s why the founding trustees of the Garment and Textile Workers Trust came together to take on the challenge of providing advice, guidance and redress to garment workers in Leicester, whoever they work for.
The voice of the worker has been largely absent in a debate dominated by brands and factory owners. So, to meet the needs of workers in the industry, we agreed from the start that the work of the trust should not be based on guesswork or hearsay, but on a solid evidence base from the workers themselves. , businesses and community partners.
That’s why we commissioned the world’s largest group of modern slavery scholars, home to the world’s leading academic experts on modern slavery, the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham, to conduct research. on the ground in Leicester, to identify worker needs, informing our work plan for our first year of operation – and for the future.
Concretely, we hope that the research – which we will publish for everyone to benefit from – will identify the areas of support most requested by the community, and allow us to quickly target our grant ambitions where they will make the most difference. whether it be provident funds or English courses, skills-based training or funding for worker advocates.
The problems that have plagued the Leicester clothing trade are complex and multifaceted, and it will not be easy to identify all the solutions. However, that shouldn’t be an excuse for inaction. Several organizations are working in the field to address various challenges affecting workers in the sector. With the launch of the trust, we are committed to putting our shoulder to the wheel to do what we can to build on the work already underway, meet new needs and contribute to a resilient city against exploitation by the job.
We are fortunate to be supported in our launch year by funding from Boohoo Group, but we know our mission will only be successful if we are joined by other vendors in town. We encourage all who share our mission to join us as we begin our efforts to make a positive impact in Leicester starting in the New Year.
Now is the time to act in Leicester: will you step up and share our ambition?