Let's start with a few comments on the latest Dispatches TV programme. I think it's a good thing that Dispatches is keeping the pressure on the rag trade - because it's notorious for having a supply chain where conditions for workers can often be very poor.
Warehouse management procedures have come under criticism for Sports Direct, JD Sports, and now BooHoo. The trouble seems to be that the workforce is transitory - with agency temps being extensively used, to boost the workforce during peak times.
Overall though, despite the TV peoples' attempt to dramatise things, BooHoo didn't seem to be doing much wrong. Specifically, these struck me as the main negatives;
- Docking pay by 15 mins for being 1 min late - clearly unfair, and should not happen.
- Long queues for bag-checking, and workers unpaid whilst waiting - again, clearly wrong, needs to be rectified.
Other than that, the following points were presented as terribly negative, but which strike me as being par for the course;
- Long shifts (12 hours), involving extensive walking - that's what warehouse work is like. So it's only suitable for people who are fit & active.
- Workers being pressurised to meet targets - it was filmed at peak trading, and everyone would understandably be under pressure to reach peak productivity.
- 3-strikes and you're out, with strikes being for quite trivial things. The company has denied this is their policy. However, when there is plenty of supply of willing agency workers, employers will naturally keep the most productive, and want the least productive replaced.
It's a fine line between urging staff to work hard, and crossing a line into bullying & maltreatment. The BooHoo supervisor filmed by Dispatches actually seemed quite polite in the way he spoke to agency staff, I thought. Certainly I've seen, and been personally on the receiving end of far worse treatment when working in warehouses! Bullying supervisors are a widespread problem.
This type of Dispatches programme can cause a lot of brand damage, so I think it's important that BooHoo properly reviews how it's treating agency staff. Overall though, on my visit to BooHoo HQ last year, I was highly impressed with how professional everyone was. So the culture of the company is good, in my experience.
The issue of goods being manufactured in factories where workers are underpaid, is an ongoing problem for the whole industry. The big problem is that…