MPs have backed calls for union recognition at one of East Lancashire’s largest employers.

Fashion giants Boohoo and shopworkers’ representatives have been at loggerheads for some time about their Burnley operation becoming unionised.

And now a Parliamentary committee, in a report on sustainability in the fashion industry, has criticised its chief executive Carol Kane over alleged failures to engage with shopworkers’ union Usdaw.

Bosses at Boohoo, which now employs more than 3,000 people at Heasandford, insist union membership is a ‘personal choice’ and maintain they will re-examine the question through staff liaison meetings.

An interim report by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee noted that after Boohoo’s Mrs Kane gave evidence, claiming there was no demand for union recognition, Usdaw disputed this, describing 23 exercises conducted for Boohoo workers and repeated high-level contacts.

Their report adds: “Overall, it is clear that despite Carol Kane’s assertion to the committee that Boohoo is open to recognising a trade union to represent their workers, the company has, over a prolonged period of time refused even the most basic level of engagement with Usdaw and appears hostile to the very idea of recognising a trade union.’

“We recommend that Boohoo engage with Usdaw as a priority and recognise unions for its workers.”

Mike Aylward, Usdaw’s divisional officer, said: “It is shameful that large companies like Boohoo won’t recognise Usdaw, even when their employees welcome it. Our members at Boohoo are unhappy with the company’s position and want Usdaw’s support in raising and resolving workplace issues.”

A Boohoo spokesman said: “We do not prevent any of our employees from joining a union as we respect it is their personal choice to make.

“We have high levels of employee engagement through our employee forum and various employee initiatives, including share incentive schemes, bonus schemes and subsidised canteens and use of an on-site gym.

“We have frequent meetings with our colleagues at our warehouses, so we will revisit the issue of union recognition with them to confirm how they would like us to proceed.”

Two years ago Boohoo had to counteract claims, following an undercover investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, that workers were often punished for ‘smiling’, lateness and subjected to security checks before bathroom breaks.