Pakistani garment workers left destitute and starving after Missguided collapse
Fashion retailer’s suppliers in Pakistan have sacked hundreds without pay, as invoices for completed orders remain unpaid
Hundreds of garment workers in Pakistan making clothing for collapsed fast fashion brand Missguided say they have been left destitute and starving after not receiving salaries for more than four months.
The workers, who typically earn between £100 and £160 a month, say that despite not being paid they have continued working even as the Manchester-based retailer went into administration, with suppliers claiming the company owes them millions of pounds for clothing already completed and shipped.
In Faisalabad, one of Pakistan’s textile heartlands, workers at the Bismillah factory have been exclusively making clothes for Missguided since 2017.
Amna Rani, 21, the sole earner for her extended family, says she has not received a salary since January and has been reduced to begging her neighbours for bread to feed her younger brothers and sisters.
“Now, no one is even giving us any loan to buy food,” she said. “My landlord is asking us to pay or leave the house. How can I pay him without getting my salary? My father was admitted to hospital and I don’t have a penny to pay for his hospital bills.”
Rani said that last week, after months of working without pay, she was fired along with hundreds of her co-workers when they were told by factory management that Missguided had not paid its invoices.
Another employee, Muhammad Irfan, said that many workers were suffering from severe depression after not receiving their salaries.
“We do not know what to do in this situation. Whether to commit suicide or become a thief. I can’t survive without getting our pay each month, but it has been more than 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 boxes of Missguided clothing sit abandoned. Like most suppliers in poor countries used by global fashion brands, suppliers are expected to pay upfront for all clothing orders, with invoices only raised when the goods are completed and ready to be shipped.
“They never told me they were facing a financial crisis, Missguided kept us in the dark,” claims Nadeem Siddique, the owner of the Bismillah factory. “[In the past few months] we have shipped hundreds of thousands of pieces of clothing that they ordered and thousands more are stuck in our storerooms and port to be shipped. We have not got a single dollar for these clothes. We have no other option than to fire workers.”
Siddique said that 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 produce exclusively for the brand.
“Since 2019, we have been making 200,000 pieces for Missguided each month,” Siddique said at his office in Faisalabad, claiming that Missguided owed him more than £2m in unpaid invoices.
“After they asked us to expand capacity we hired another 300 workers, but now Missguided has left us alone amid threats from investors, vendors and workers,” he said. “They even gave us an order in May that was supposed to be shipped in June.”
Hundreds of workers in the Spry Sports factory in the city of Sialkot, which was making about 200,000 pieces of clothing for Missguided every month, say they are also going hungry after receiving no pay for months.
“My children have stopped going to school. They don’t have money to buy notebooks and books. We don’t have food,” said Rihana Naeem, 40, who says she has been unable to afford her kidney medication since her salary stopped being paid.
“For more than a month, I have been crying, begging and praying to get my salary. Only God knows how I am surviving, I have to beg for money from people.”
Shams Ghulam, the owner of Spry Sports, said that they have kept asking Missguided for payment for worker salaries but have received no response.
“The western countries say that they are civilised and they care for workers and for labour rights, but can you ask these companies, what should a supplier do to pay their workers?” he said. “Is it my fault that I have not paid my workers? No. I have to pay investors, my partners and workers. The business started with a promise and trust but Missguided has broken both.”
Since going into administration, “certain intellectual property” of Missguided has been bought by Frasers Group, controlled by the Sports Direct founder, Mike Ashley, for £20m in cash. The company will continue to be operated by the administrator under a transitional agreement for about eight weeks.
The Clean Clothes Campaign said that the Missguided workers in Pakistan were facing “wage theft” and destitution while shareholder profits will be protected.
“Missguided, co-owner Alteri, and the appointed administrators must urgently take action to ensure that workers in Pakistan and elsewhere are paid their wages,” said Meg Lewis, campaigns lead at the Clean Clothes Campaign.
“We are seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of workers in Missguided’s supply chain who are facing crisis. This again highlights the gross injustice, that brands are able to impose discounts or refuse to pay for goods that have already been shipped. It is likely that many of the workers stories will never be told, and the true scale of impact will remain hidden,” she said.
Teneo Financial Advisory, which has been appointed by Missguided to oversee its administration, declined to comment.