WRC Factory Investigation

Thai Garment Export 1/3

Factory: Thai Garment Export 1/3

Key Buyers: 5.11 Tactical, Ashworth, Cutter & Buck, Nike, Peter Millar

Year: 2019

Case Summary

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 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: On August 21, 2018, a Burmese worker in the dipping department of the factory severely burned her hand operating a machine. Due to the severity of the burn, she required a surgery that involved removing skin from her hip and grafting it onto the damaged part of her hand. One of the injured worker’s coworkers, who is a leader in the factory union, reported to the WRC that workers felt that the company’s initial response to the injury was inadequate. The workers, through their union, took their concerns to management. The company then began working to ensure that the worker received compensation through the Workmen’s Compensation Fund.

  2. Worker Injury in January 2019: On January 12, 2019, a worker at the factory was injured during her lunch break. After eating lunch, she had sat on the floor near her workstation to rest before resuming work. Her back hit a fire extinguisher, which fell on top of her, severing one toe and a portion of a second toe. After the accident, the workplace Committee on Occupational Health and Safety, which was comprised of five union members, ensured that the worker received proper treatment and helped her to navigate the compensation process. The union and factory management worked together to ensure she received proper compensation from the Workmen’s Compensation Fund.

  3. Migrant Worker Access to Child Allowance Benefits: In early February 2019, a Burmese worker approached the union with a complaint concerning access to a financial child allowance benefit provided by the Social Security Office.  While the worker had been able to access the funds, the Social Security Office denied her reapplication in 2019. In response to the discontinuation of the worker’s payments, the union sent a letter to the Social Security Office to inquire about the worker’s denied application. After receiving the letter, representatives of the Social Security Office went to Thai Garment Export to meet with the worker, factory management, and the union. As a result, the Social Security Office restored the worker’s access to Child Allowance Benefits.

  4. Addressing Possible Pregnancy Discrimination: In late March 2019, according to worker testimony, a worker approached the union with a pregnancy discrimination complaint. She had begun employment at Thai Garment Export on February 11 and was still in her probationary period when, one month later, on March 11, she found out she was pregnant. On the following day, she informed her supervisor of her condition. Less than two weeks later, she was told by her supervisor that she had not passed her probation and was asked to sign a resignation letter. The fact that this unusual, constructive termination occurred after the worker informed factory personnel of her pregnancy caused the union to be concerned that the dismissal was due to her pregnancy. The union proceeded to represent the worker through a series of labor-management discussions, which resulted in management providing a written confirmation that she would be able to continue her employment.

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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