UK factory worker tells how she was duped into working for £4 an hour

13 July 2020, 19:50 | Updated: 13 July 2020, 21:58

A new report has revealed there are at least 100,000 slaves in the UK working for extremely low wages in terrible conditions.

A spike in COVID-19 cases in Leicester has drawn attention to alleged underhand practices in its estimated 1,500 textile factories, something the city's mayor has said is not a secret but is difficult to stop.

Laura, not her real name, worked for just over £4 an hour in a UK factory in 2007 - before she reported her concerns to the police. Here, she describes her experience.

I was taken on as an assistant fashion designer back in 2007.

The job wasn't exactly how they'd advertised it.

The first three months you were on a probation period and they said that the wages were lower so they could see whether you were any good at the job and after the three months the wages would go up.

I started on £10,000 a year and for all the hours that I'd worked it worked out that they were paying me just over £4 an hour.

After you come to the end of that three-month period they would just get rid of you and take somebody new on.

The factory itself wasn't very nice. It was cold inside the office and there was one toilet which we shared with I don't know how many hundreds of people.

I was scared of the bosses to be honest. They'd make you feel guilty if you weren't willing to do things like come in extra hours over the weekend.

They would make you feel guilty because if you didn't do it then somebody who you worked with, who you liked, would have to come and do it.

I used to dread coming to work every single day. It was just not a nice place to be.

Another girl who had worked there for quite a while said that the person who owned the factory also owned houses across the street which is where she said they put workers who shouldn't be in the country.

She also told me never to go down to the bottom of the factory because that's where they all worked and we weren't allowed in.

She said the working conditions down there were just horrendous and they weren't being paid to do the job.

I went to the police and told them everything that I knew.

I feel really annoyed after I reported it at the time that it's still going on now and nobody seems to be able to do anything about it.

I feel upset about the whole thing.

Leicestershire Police said in a statement: "We would need further information in relation to the allegation made 13 years ago to be able to comment on this further, but would encourage anyone with any concerns in relation to the operation of a business to report it so that further enquiries can be carried out."