New Report: Remediation of Unpaid Severance at Thai Garment Export (Thailand)

To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Bent Gehrt, Rola Abimourched, and Ben Hensler
Date:August 1, 2023
Re:New Report: Remediation of Unpaid Severance at Thai Garment Export (Thailand)

Please find here a new report concerning the WRC’s investigation and successful remediation of nonpayment of severance benefits to migrant workers at Thai Garment Export, a longtime producer of collegiate apparel, most recently for the university licensee, Peter Millar. The factory, which has been the subject of multiple previous investigations by the WRC, also produces non-collegiate apparel for Burberry and L.L. Bean.  

This case stems from early in the Covid-19 pandemic when, in April 2020, Thai Garment Export terminated 43 Burmese migrant workers without paying their legally due severance. The WRC’s initial investigation and engagement with the factory concerning the terminations resulted in the management quickly making an offer to reinstate the workers, initially on a short-term contract, which a number of the former employees accepted.

However, 28 terminated workers brought a claim of unpaid severance to the Thai labor courts, which, by July 2022, resulted in the factory agreeing to pay these workers 80 percent of what they were owed. The WRC then engaged with the factory’s buyers to secure Thai Garment Export’s commitment to pay workers the remaining 20 percent of their legally due severance.

Although the university licensee, Peter Millar, did not respond in a timely manner, both of the factory’s non-collegiate buyers, Burberry and L.L. Bean, did, and they prevailed on Thai Garment Exports to make the additional payments to workers, which were completed in May 2023. On average, each of the 28 dismissed workers who did not return to the factory received, in total, more than $1,700—the equivalent of nearly seven months’ wages.

The case is yet another reminder that, in many countries where collegiate apparel is produced, local legal mechanisms regularly fail to deliver full justice for workers. In this case, university codes of conduct and independent factory monitoring ensured that these vulnerable workers were able to see the violations of their rights fully remedied.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.