CRIME agency bosses are looking into cases of modern slavery in Leicester after a Sun investigation revealed workers were being paid just £2.50 an hour.
Health-and-safety bosses are also investigating after we revealed the extent of overcrowding in many factories in the city – which is now locked down to clamp down on virus cases.
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The Health Safety Executive is investigating three textile firms, and taking enforcement action at one.
Today Matt Hancock confirmed the city would stay in lockdown for nearly another two weeks – until July 18.
A decision will then be made on what measures to take next.
He also confirmed that the rate of infection in the city – which was the first area to have a local lockdown imposed – has declined from 135 to 117 cases per 100,000.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen reckons there could be 10,000 “slaves” working in Leicester.
He said: “Covid-19 has brought into focus what’s been going on.
“It’ll take a Tory government to end the despicable work practices and human exploitation in Leicester.”
The Sun heard stories of ‘slave labour’ workers being paid just £2.50 an hour to toil in unsanitary conditions where they are made to put their lives on the line on a daily basis and cramped, terraced homes stuffed with multiple families and up to a dozen people.
People were allowed to work in factories until new regulations which ordered them to shut – but beforehand it was up to business owners to shut down in a bid to halt the spread.
Today No10 said: “The Home Secretary has asked the National Crime Agency to look into some reports relating to possible cases of modern slavery.”
The National Crime Agency confirmed to the Sun on Sunday that it had visited clothes factories in the city.
One business owner running a shop in the North Evington area of Leicester – where there are said to be 1,000 modern sweatshops – last week called for the police to intervene as soon as possible.
The man, who asked not to be named, told The Sun: “It’s crazy what is happening in these factories. These men and women are decent, hard-working people but they are risking their lives to produce clothes for big fashion brands right here in the UK.
“It’s is wrong but no one is doing anything to put a stop to it. The police should go into the factories and close them down.
“What they are doing is slave labour, there is no other word for it.
“They are only getting £2.50 an hour and they make so little money they have to live with 10 others in two or three-bedroom houses.”
One factory manager, who was driving a sparkling grey Audi SUV, attempted to defend conditions while at the same time refusing to give her name or let our reporter inside to see for themselves.
She said: “There’s no such thing as slave labour. People only work here because they want to and if the conditions were so bad the workers would go and get jobs somewhere else.
“The police came to inspect this place twice in May and they’ve let us carry on working because they haven’t found anything wrong.”