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Pakistani garment workers left destitute and starving after Missguided collapse | Global development

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Hundreds of garment workers in Pakistan making clothes for collapsed fast fashion brand Missguided say they have been left destitute and starving after not receiving a salary for more than four months.

The workers, who typically earn between £100 and £160 a month, say that despite not being paid they continued to work even when the Manchester-based retailer went into business, with suppliers saying the company is helping them. owes millions of pounds for clothes already completed. and shipped.

In Faisalabad, one of Pakistan’s textile heartlands, workers at the Bismillah factory have been making clothes exclusively for Missguided since 2017.

Amna Rani was fired along with hundreds of other colleagues and says she hasn’t been paid since January. Photograph: Shah Meer Baloch/The Guardian

Amna Rani, 21, the only source of income for her extended family, says she hasn’t received a salary since January and is reduced to begging bread from neighbors to feed her younger siblings .

“Now nobody even gives us a loan to buy food,” she said. “My landlord asks us to pay or leave the house. How can I pay it without getting my salary? My dad was admitted to the hospital and I don’t have a penny to pay his hospital bills.

Rani said last week, after months of working without pay, she was fired along with hundreds of her co-workers when factory management told them Missguided had failed to pay her bills.

Another employee, Muhammad Irfan, said many workers suffer from severe depression after not receiving their pay.

“We don’t know what to do in this situation. Whether to commit suicide or become a thief. I cannot survive without receiving our salary every month, but it has been over four months. Missguided and the UK government should help us or the government should force the company to pay for the Bismillah factory.

Inside the Bismillah factory, mountains of Missguided clothing boxes lie abandoned. Like most suppliers in poor countries used by global fashion brands, suppliers are expected to prepay for all clothing orders, with invoices only issued when goods are complete and ready to ship.

Mohammed Irfan pictured at the Bismillah factory where he works
Mohammed Irfan says the situation has left many workers depressed and desperate. Photograph: Shah Meer Baloch/The Guardian

“They never told me they were facing a financial crisis, Missguided kept us in the dark,” says Nadeem Siddique, the owner of the Bismillah factory. “[In the past few months] we have shipped hundreds of thousands of garments they ordered and thousands more are stuck in our warehouses and port for shipment. We don’t have a single dollar for these clothes. We have no choice but to lay off the workers.

Siddique said the factory started supplying Missguided in 2017, and in 2019 the company said it wanted to increase orders and asked the factory to expand and hire more workers, and to produce exclusively for the brand.

“Since 2019, we have been making 200,000 pieces for Missguided every month,” Siddique said at his office in Faisalabad, claiming Missguided owed him more than £2million in unpaid invoices.

Nadeem Siddique, owner of the Bismillah factory in Faisalabad, seated at a desk.
Nadeem Siddique, owner of the Bismillah factory, which made 200,000 pieces for Missguided every month. Photograph: Shah Meer Baloch/The Guardian

“After they asked us to increase capacity, we hired another 300 workers, but now Missguided has left us alone with threats from investors, vendors and workers,” he said. “They even placed an order with us in May that was supposed to ship in June.”

Hundreds of workers in Spry Sports A factory in the town of Sialkot, which made around 200,000 clothes for Missguided every month, says it is also going hungry after not receiving any pay for months.

“My children have stopped going to school. They have no money to buy notebooks and books. We have no food,” said Rihana Naeem, 40, who says she hasn’t been able to afford her kidney medication since her salary stopped being paid.

“For more than a month, I have been crying, begging and praying for my salary. God only knows how I survive, I have to beg people for money.

Shams Ghulam, the owner of Spry Sports, said they kept asking Missguided for workers’ wages to be paid, but received no response.

“Western countries say they are civilized and care about workers and labor rights, but can you ask these companies, what does a supplier have to do to pay their workers?” he said. “Is it my fault that I didn’t pay my workers? No. I have to pay the investors, my partners and my employees. The business started with a promise and a trust, but Missguided broke both.

Since taking office, “certain intellectual properties” of Missguided have been purchased by Frasers Group, controlled by Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley, for £20million in cash. The business will continue to be operated by the administrator under a transitional agreement for approximately eight weeks.

The Clean Clothes Campaign said Missguided workers in Pakistan face “wage theft” and destitution as shareholder profits will be protected.

“Missguided, co-owner Alteri, and appointed administrators must act urgently to ensure that workers in Pakistan and elsewhere receive their wages,” said Meg Lewis, campaigns manager at the Clean Clothes Campaign.

We see the tip of the iceberg in terms of Missguided supply chain workers who are facing the crisis. This again highlights the gross injustice that brands can impose discounts or refuse to pay for goods that have already been shipped. It is likely that many workers’ stories will never be told and the true scale of the impact will remain hidden,” she said.

Teneo Financial Advisory, which was appointed by Missguided to oversee its administration, declined to comment.