WRC Factory Investigation

Thai Garment Export 1/3

Factory: Thai Garment Export 1/3

Key Buyers: 5.11 Tactical, Ashworth, Burberry, Cutter & Buck, L.L. Bean, Nike, Peter Millar

Last Updated: 2023

Case Summary

20062007: Freedom of Association and Women’s Rights

Buyers: Ashworth, Cutter & Buck, and Nike

The WRC undertook this assessment in response to complaints received in December 2006 from employees of the facility alleging violations of Thai law and applicable codes of conduct, primarily in the areas of freedom of association and women’s rights. The WRC is pleased to report that this assessment has resulted in substantial improvements in working conditions at Thai Garment Export to date. The developments include the reinstatement of employees unlawfully dismissed in retaliation for exercising their associational rights; the commencement, on management’s own initiative, of a series of labor rights trainings for lower and middle management that have resulted in more consistent compliance with appropriate labor rights policies throughout the factory; and positive engagement with a newly established union.

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2009–2010: Layoff Practices

Buyers: Ashworth, Cutter & Buck, Nike, and 5.11 Tactical.

After undergoing financial hardship due to buyers reducing orders, Thai Garment Exports decided to reduce its workforce in 2009. While the WRC found that the company’s decision to layoff employees did not violate Thai law or relevant codes of conduct, there are a number of areas in which the procedure by which the layoff was conducted fell short of recognized standards for best practice in such circumstances.

The WRC met with Thai Garment Export to discuss the issues identified and the WRC’s recommendations to correct the problems. The company agreed to give genuine reconsideration to any workers who still had complaints about the layoff process and worked with the union to reach agreeable resolutions for those workers.

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2018–2019: Long-Term Impacts of Previous Freedom of Association Remediation

Buyers: Cutter & Buck and Peter Millar

After the WRC documented retaliation against workers seeking to form a union in 2006–2007, the company complied with, and even exceeded, the WRC’s recommendations for remediation. The company’s prompt, thorough response created the necessary conditions for 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. The incidents included:

  1. Worker Injury in August 2018
  2. Worker Injury in January 2019
  3. Migrant Worker Access to Child Allowance Benefits in 2019
  4. Addressing Possible Pregnancy Discrimination in 2019

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.

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2020–2023 Unpaid Severance

Buyers: Peter Millar, L.L Bean, Burberry

At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the WRC found that Thai Garment Exports’ dismissal of 43 Burmese migrant workers did not comply with Thai law regarding severance rights. In response, 28 of the terminated workers brought a claim for unpaid severance in the Thai labor courts. After several delays, the company agreed to a partial remedy in July 2022: paying workers 80 percent of what they were owed. The WRC successfully engaged with the factory buyers L.L. Bean and Burberry, and, in April 2023, Thai Garment Export agreed to fully remedy the violation by making payment of a humanitarian grant equal to the remaining severance pay owed to the 28 workers.

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