ASOS Investigation Claims To Expose The 'True Cost' Of Fast Fashion

'Workers say they are treated like machines.'

29/09/2016 13:14 | Updated 30 September 2016

ASOS has been accused of treating employees “like machines” in its distribution warehouse in Yorkshire.

According to BuzzFeed News, who conducted a three-month investigation into working conditions, staff are “highly pressurised” and are “discouraged” from stopping to drink water or use the toilet.

The new allegations follow a previous claim by MP Owen Smith, who accused ASOS of “appalling” working conditions, which the fashion giant strongly denied.

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The ASOS distribution centre near Barnsley, South Yorkshire

BuzzFeed interviewed employees at ASOS’ warehouse near Barnsley, which runs 24/7 to prepare packages for customers across the world.

Some staff members complained they were being kept on “exploitative” contracts that allow them to be terminated with no notice and sent home without pay when shifts are cancelled last minute.

Workers also claimed that 15 minutes’ pay has been docked for just one minute’s lateness.

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Workers in the ASOS distribution centre

BuzzFeed’s investigation came after a campaign by the GMB union that raised concerns from members at the site over various health and safety issues.

The GMB is now calling on the Business Select Committee to investigate these incidents “as a matter of urgency”.

“These reports show that employment at ASOS is not only stressful, invasive, and deeply exploitative, but is also hazardous to workers’ health,” GMB regional secretary Neil Derrick said in an official statement today.

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But global logistics giant XPO, which runs the distribution centre, told The Huffington Post UK it disputes the allegations.

“It is our mission to create a safe and healthy environment and we have an independently elected colleague forum in place to ensure we are maintaining these standards,” a spokesperson said.

“To correct the record, the number of comfort breaks an employee takes is not a factor in evaluating performance.

“We are also fully compliant with the national minimum wage and national living wage, and do not employ anyone in our warehouses on a zero-hours contract.

“We invited the independent public body ACAS to review our annualised hours scheme before we implemented it and were met with approval. 

“The wellbeing of the team working in Barnsley is very important to us. As such, we have an onsite occupational nurse, a physiotherapist and have recently invested £3m in a cooling project to improve temperatures in the warehouse during the summer period.”

An ASOS spokesperson also denied the claims in a statement to The Huffington Post UK.

“There have been a number of allegations about the working conditions at our warehouse in Barnsley that are inaccurate, misleading or based on out of date information,” they said.

“This upsets us, but more importantly, it upsets the people who work there.

“Those who seek to portray the warehouse as an awful place to work never mention the positive work we do in conjunction with XPO, like the 50 different learning and development programs offered, free mental health support and awareness training, subsidised food in a newly renovated canteen, or the £3 million spent on a cooling system to keep the temperature down during the summer.

“Ultimately, ASOS and XPO both care deeply about our people and that’s why we have chosen to partner with them”

Rui Vieira/PA Archive

ASOS was also forced to defend working conditions in April last year after Vice published interviews with former employees, some of whom compared the Yorkshire warehouse to a “modern-day sweatshop”.

At the time, the company insisted the warehouse provided a “safe and modern working environment” with “high levels of colleague engagement... satisfaction... and operational efficiency.”

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