Update on Remediation at Hansae Vietnam
August 3, 2017
I want to update you briefly on remediation efforts at Hansae Vietnam. Please note that the WRC is also preparing a more detailed and comprehensive update on this factory, which we will provide to you later in August.
Since we last reported to you, significant progress has been achieved with respect to a number of the violations identified by both the WRC and the FLA in our assessments of the factory last year: in particular, the procurement of ergonomic chairs to replace the unsafe backless benches currently used by workers and provision of back pay to compensate workers for the company’s previous practice of requiring workers to perform daily unpaid off-the-clock overtime.
However, as noted below, there are also a number of significant issues on which Hansae has not made adequate remedial commitments.
Compensation for Daily Unpaid Overtime
As we have reported previously, Hansae’s initial actions on the issue of back pay for off-the-clock overtime were inadequate. Hansae initially paid only a token amount to workers (about 40 cents each). The WRC has continued to advocate for genuine remediation on this front and we have asked multiple buyers, including Nike, Gap Inc., and L Brands (Victoria’s Secret), to press Hansae on the issue.
In response, Hansae has now proposed a payment of about $60 per worker, $500,000 in total. This is a large improvement over where the company started and a significant amount of money. However, as it is still somewhat short of the WRC’s estimate of the amount actually owed to workers for the unpaid overtime they have performed for the company, we are urging Hansae to increase its proposal further.
(It should also be noted that Hansae, in making this proposal, has described this payment as a charitable contribution to workers, not as back pay. This does not concern us: the label that the company applies to the potential payments is of limited importance – what matters is that workers receive funds equivalent to those they legally earned but were not paid.)
Ergonomic Seating for Production Workers and Other Safety Issues
On the issue of ergonomic chairs for the factory’s workers, the WRC was able to obtain, via Gap Inc., photographs and specifications of potential chair models that Hansae was considering acquiring, which we had been seeking since last December. The purpose of seeking this information was to enable us to assess whether chairs Hansae is considering for purchase actually meet ergonomic standards. Hansae provided information on five models of chairs. The WRC approved two of these models as meeting applicable standards and Hansae has begun to supply workers with one of the chairs we designated.
While Hansae has not yet indicated the exact date by which it will complete procurement of these ergonomic chairs for all of the factory’s production workers, these recent developments represent significant progress. If a timely procurement schedule is confirmed, and followed, Hansae will have achieved full remediation on the seating issue – an improvement with real day-to-day significance for the factory’s workers who until now, as noted, have been seated on backless benches that pose significant risks to them of long-term musculoskeletal injury.
In addition to unsafe seating, the two most important workplace safety and health issues the WRC identified were excessive heat levels in the factory and unsafe open spraying of acetone. With respect to acetone spraying, Hansae already committed to follow the WRC’s remedial recommendations by installing enclosed spraying booths in all of the factory’s cleaning rooms where acetone is used. With respect to excessive heat, Hansae, as we have previously reported, did not submit an engineering proposal as previously agreed. Instead, the factory installed cooling equipment of unproven effectiveness and, since our last update, has continued to install these systems. Since this work is now substantially completed, we will have to proceed to independently assess factory temperatures during next year’s hot season, in the hope that the installed systems will outperform our expectations and succeed in keeping temperatures below legal limits. If they do not, it will be necessary for Hansae to replace these systems with effective measures.
Unresolved Issues: Pregnancy Discrimination, Illegal Recruitment Fees, and Violation of Freedom of Association
Hansae has not made adequate remedial commitments with respect to several other outstanding workplace violations – pregnancy discrimination (as well as reinstatement of other unlawfully terminated workers), illegal recruitment fees demanded from job applicants by company supervisors, and the violation of workers’ associational rights resulting from Hansae management’s direct control of the factory’s union. We are continuing our efforts to secure adequate remedial commitments on these issues.
The FLA is also issuing an update today, covering the recent progress and noting the unresolved issues (see full factory assessment here).
As always, if you have any questions about this update, please let me know.
Worker Rights Consortium