Academics are seeking garment workers in Leicester to take part in a study to understand what can be done to improve their lives and working conditions.
The researchers, led by the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham, are also looking to speak to professionals who work in the sector to inform the study.
Garment workers can take part in the study through a 30-minute anonymous questionnaire, available from Shama Women’s Centre or Hope for Justice early next week. Some participants can choose to take part in an interview-style question and answer session, which will take an hour. All participants will receive a supermarket voucher for taking part.
Participants will be asked about their experiences working in the garment sector – good and bad – and if they have ideas around how people’s working lives can be improved.
The researchers wish to gather insight from community leaders, charities and others working in the sector and region.
The Rights Lab experts are working with De Montfort University, Shama Women’s Centre and Hope for Justice to form an understanding of the current situation for garment workers in Leicester.
They aim to use this information to make recommendations to the new Leicester Garment and Textile Workers Trust, which has commissioned the research to uncover some of the immediate and future needs of workers within the local garment industry. The study will also examine other actions businesses, government agencies, NGOs and communities can undertake to improve the lives of garment workers.
Dr Alison Gardner, Rights Lab Associate Director (Communities and Society Programme) and Nottingham Research Fellow in Slavery-Free Communities, is leading the project. She said: “This study will provide a holistic overview of the current situation in Leicester with an emphasis on workers’ perspectives. We are pooling all of the insights and experiences from across the community to identify realistic, evidence-based solutions that local partners can work on together.
“It’s vital that garment workers can trust in us and it’s important for them to know that we are committed to finding solutions that can be implemented immediately and in the long term.”
Co-researcher, Dr Dave Walsh, Professor in Criminal Investigation at De Montfort University, said: “It is vital that the community are involved in helping provide solutions to the problem of labour exploitation in the garment industry in Leicester so that the rights of workers are respected where, for example, they receive a fair wage for the work they do.”
Khudeja Amer-Sharif, CEO of Shama Women’s Centre, said: “Shama has a 35-year history of empowering thousands of women in Leicester, many of whom have gained machinist skills in our purpose-built industrial unit; helping them gain work in the garment industry.
“More importantly we are committed to ensuring that women seeking work in the garment industry are armed with the knowledge of their employment rights and the confidence to seek help when needed. I believe this research will be key in identifying the barriers that many of these women face and inform workable solutions to address some of the ethical issues facing the garment industry.
“Our reputation as a trusted grass roots organisation will be key in encouraging women to take part in this vital research helping provide in depth insight to help improve the lives of garment workers in Leicester. We are delighted to take part in this important study.”
Paul McAnulty, UK & Europe Programme Director at the charity Hope for Justice, which has a Community Engagement Hub in the East Midlands, said: “We want to do everything possible to understand the journeys of those with lived experience of exploitation, and to appreciate their individual preferred futures.
“Only by doing this can we devise and deliver interventions that will yield positive outcomes, create pathways out of exploitation and generate viable alternatives to situations that perpetuate inequity and mistreatment.
“Hope for Justice is proud of the work we have done to develop independent bridges of trust into communities that are potentially vulnerable to being exploited. We have been helping people to empower themselves and others to freedom, and we are proud to be working alongside the partners on this project. Together, we want to ensure that the true nature of exploitation in Leicester’s textile industry is understood.”