Major online fashion retailers face backlash from unions for operating during coronavirus pandemic

Online fashion retailers ASOS and Net-A-Porter are being accused by unions of operating without social distancing measures in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

ASOS employs up to 4,000 people at its warehouse in Barnsley and workers are reporting no social distancing measures, a complicated clocking in systems where large numbers of people are forced to gather in a small area as well as hundreds of working breaking for lunch at the same time.

Stephanie Peacock, MP for Barnsley East, has written to the company’s CEO expressing her concern: “I have spoken to a number of concerned workers employed at the ASOS warehouse who feel that their health is being put before profit in this national crisis,” she says. “It is imperative that we all do our bit to stop the spread of coronavirus, saving future lives. I will do all I can to make sure workers across Barnsley East are able to do their jobs in safe conditions.”

Meanwhile, in South London, around 550 people are working at Net-A-Porter’s distribution site. The luxury etailer says it is encouraging social distancing but a spokesperson for GMB, Britain’s General Union, says the logistics of the warehouse means this is not possible.

“The company is quite simply putting fashion before lives,” says GMB organizer Mary Stump. “This is a company with a turnover of more than £700 million, yet it insists on putting the whims of customers before the safety of its workforce.

“Now is not the time for us to be focusing on sending out expensive fashion items to people who can’t leave the house if it means workers are being exposed to needless contamination – not to mention the risk to Net-A-Porter customers. GMB calls on the company to follow government advice immediately and close the warehouse down before it’s too late.”

Photo by Marcin Jozwiak on Unsplash