Primark under investigation after reports UK knitwear supplier hired illegal workers
Primark are in the firing line again after allegations that the company employed illegal immigrants on just over half the minimum wage to make knitwear for one of their best-selling ranges.
The investigation by the BBC and the Observer has prompted the high street fashion giant to launch an inquiry into their Manchester-based garment company TNS Knitwear to uncover whether the branch has breached employment and immigration laws.
Should the claims prove true, Primark and TNS could be rapped with fines of up to £10,000 for each illegal worker and may face possible prosecution for tax evasion and abuse of employment law.
An undercover journalist broke the story after he filmed workers, with a hidden camera, who were reportedly being paid £3 an hour – just over half the minimum wage of £5.73 – for working 12-hour days, seven days a week.
Many of the workers of Pakistani, Afghan and Indian origin were producing the garments just two miles away from one of Primark’s biggest stores on Market Street in Manchester.
Following a five-month undercover investigation, Primark was challenged with the allegations, after workers admitted on camera that they were living in the UK illegally.
TNS Knitwear has denied the claims, whilst a Primark spokesman spoke out last night saying the issue was now a matter for the authorities.
‘Primark was informed this week that one of the UK factories from which it buys some knitwear has allegedly broken a number of UK employment, tax and immigration laws,’ he said.
‘Primark is conducting its own investigation. Once that investigation is completed, it will decide how to proceed. Meanwhile, Primark has handed all relevant information passed to the company over to the relevant enforcement agencies so they may take action.
He added: ‘We are extremely concerned about the very serious allegations made against our supplier TNS Knitwear and against TNS’s unauthorised subcontractor, Fashion Waves.’
Despite this latest setback – one of a handful Primark have faced over their cheap, fast fashion stance – the high street chain posted profits of £233 million last year and is expected to open stores in Portugal, Germany and the Netherlands throughout 2009.