Factory: Panorama Apparels
Key Buyers: Antigua Group, H&M, Next
In February 2016, Panorama Apparels (“Panorama”) illegally dismissed workers who were officers of a proposed union and engaged in a sophisticated campaign to ensure that the worker leaders would not return to the factory, further violating the workers’ associational rights. At the time that the WRC launched its investigation, Panorama, which employs 1,500 workers, was a supplier of collegiate apparel to Antigua Group. Throughout the period of this engagement, Panorama Apparels has supplied non-collegiate shirts to H&M and a British retailer, Next.
This case underscores the challenges workers in Bangladesh, like in so many other countries producing collegiate apparel, face when exercising their associational rights as well as the obstacles labor rights monitors have in documenting these cases. As discussed in the WRC’s report, virtually every time the workers tried to exercise their legal rights—first to improve their working conditions and then to obtain justice after being forced to resign from their positions at the factory—they faced tremendous obstacles.
Panorama’s actions represent particularly severe violations of freedom of association, a fundamental workplace right protected under Bangladeshi labor law, international labor standards, and buyer codes of conduct. The management’s actions were so egregious that, in the midst of the WRC’s intervention, a high-level ILO delegation highlighted the Panorama case as an example of the severity of workers’ rights violations in Bangladesh.
Despite active intervention by key buyers in response to ongoing fact-finding and advocacy by the WRC, the damage done by factory management to workers’ associational rights in this case was not remedied. After six months of engagement, Panorama management succeeded in removing the complainant workers from the workplace; after management’s months of intimidation, the workers no longer wished to return to the plant, fearing escalated retaliation. Panorama management’s 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.
Worker Rights Consortium Factory Assessment Panorama Apparels (Bangladesh) – November 25, 2019