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Case Reports: Thai Garment Export (Thailand) and Panorama Apparels (Bangladesh)

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November 25, 2019

Dear Colleagues,

Before you depart for the Thanksgiving holiday, we wanted to share new reports detailing two cases, Thai Garment Export and Panorama Apparels. While both of these cases concern freedom of association, they had very different outcomes.

Thai Garment Export
At Thai Garment Export, a factory supplying multiple licensees, we have recently seen new examples of the positive long-term impact of a successful WRC intervention that took place more than a decade ago. After the WRC documented retaliation against workers seeking to form a union in 2006-2007, the company fully complied with and even exceeded the WRC’s recommendations for remediation. The company’s prompt, thorough response created the necessary conditions for a productive labor-management dialogue that continues to this day.

Workers have reported to the WRC four recent instances in which they, through their union, have successfully engaged with management to address possible violations concerning particularly vulnerable workers, including a migrant worker and a pregnant woman, as well as workers injured on the job. In each of these situations, workers’ confidence that they could raise concerns with management without retaliation, and management’s willingness to hear and address workers’ concerns, resulted in timely solutions without the need for WRC or university involvement. This outcome is a reminder of the positive impact that mature labor relations and respect for freedom of association can have on university code compliance across the board.

Panorama Apparels
At Panorama Apparels, unfortunately, factory management did not take the high road. This factory, which was at the time of the WRC investigation a supplier of collegiate apparel to Antigua Group and of non-collegiate apparel to H&M and Next, engaged in a coordinated campaign of retaliation and intimidation against workers seeking to form a union.

Panorama management engaged in months of intimidation, first pushing workers out of the factory through dismissal and coerced resignation, and then continuing and intensifying the threats such that the workers no longer wished to return to the plant, fearing escalated retaliation. This intimidation campaign was so effective that, by the close of this case, the workers’ union advisors were unwilling even to participate in a workplace freedom of association training program for fear of retaliation against themselves and their families.

This case serves as a stark reminder of the obstacles that garment workers face when they seek to exercise their associational rights and press for improved conditions in their workplaces.

As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions about either of these cases.

Best,

Scott Nova