fbpx
Pakistan: Union busting at International Textile factory

Pakistan: Union busting at International Textile factory

 Pakistan:
 Union Busting 
 At International 
 Textile Factory 

Workers from a towel and linen supplier in Karachi are fighting for their rights after being dismissed for taking part in union activities

Workers from a towel, linen and apparel supplier in Pakistan are fighting for their jobs after being dismissed for taking part in union activities.

The factory, called International Textile in the Korangi Industrial Area of Karachi, Pakistan produces for international hotel chains including Marriott and Accor, the hotel linen brand Standard Textile, and UK company Marks & Spencer.

In October 2021, 25 workers were illegally dismissed for their participation in union activities and for demanding their legal rights, in clear violation of their freedom of association. These workers had recently participated in union organising at the factory relating to underpayment of wages and benefits. Following a worker-led protest demanding their jobs back, 18 of the workers were reinstated but the 7 workers who were leading union organising in the factory did not get their jobs back. A further worker was dismissed for unionising in January. These 8 workers appear to have been blacklisted by International Textile for their union organising and are unable to find any jobs in other factories.  

All of the fired workers were employed as ‘contractors’ through the labour agent (which is illegal), but the factory say that because they weren’t direct employees their reinstatement isn’t the factory’s responsibility.

Widespread labour violations in the factory led to worker unionization efforts. These violations included non-payment of the double rate for overtime, non-payment of double overtime rate for working on gazetted holidays, forced overtime beyond legal limits, pay discrimination against women workers and general underpayment of wages.

The workers have started a court case demanding their rights and jobs back, but this is slow and the workers are stuck without income while the court processes are delayed.

The union, NTUF, is demanding that International Textile respect workers’ rights defined by local and international laws, and ensure that the 8 workers be reinstated with back pay for wages and benefits covering the period since their dismissal. They are further urging International Textile to enter into dialogue with NTUF to address the other documented labour rights violations, and to negotiate the terms of the workers’ return.

We have contacted brands in this case but no resolution has yet been reached.

Spotlight on Pakistan's Labour Contractors

Many workers in Pakistan are employed via labour contractors – recruiters and employers who supply workers to big factory operations. Under the Sindh Factories Act 2015 this set up is illegal, yet the use of contracted labour is commonplace in Pakistan. 

The benefit to suppliers of using labour contractors to provide a percentage of their workforce is that suppliers can keep workers at one step remove and avoid some financial and legal duties towards them as full employees. This includes dismissing workers cheaply when they don’t need full factory capacity, and also dismissing workers who they see as undesirable in their factories, such as those who unionise… 

This illegal yet commonplace tactic has led to low unionisation rates – with precarious work and fewer rights many workers find the risk of organising is too great. This case at International Textile is just one of many where worker organising has been eliminated through what seems to be a mundane contract dispute. The importance of the fight of these workers will have an impact on many. If they win or lose, the union see their case as setting a precedent as to whether suppliers will be allowed in the future to undermine freedom of association through labour contracting methods. 

Adidas: End wage-theft and pay your workers

Adidas: End wage-theft and pay your workers

 adidas: 
 END WAGE-THEFT AND 
 Pay your workers

As Adidas celebrates 73 years as a global sports brand, pressure is mounting for them to address wage-theft in their supply chain. Trade unions, activists and labour rights groups around the world are calling on Adidas to sign a negotiated binding agreement on wages, severance and labour rights. 

Adidas has left the workers in its supply chain without the payments they are owed during the pandemic and in the economic crisis that followed. Adidas claims that all is fine, but the workers in its supply chain beg to differ. In eight adidas supplier factories in Cambodia alone, Adidas owe their workers US$ 11.7 million in wages for just the first 14 months of the pandemic – that’s $387 per worker. Workers no longer making clothes for Adidas are also owed money. Workers of the Hulu Garment factory in Cambodia who were laid off at the beginning of the pandemic are still owed 3.6million USD. In May 2022, 5,600 workers at another Adidas supplier in Cambodia went on strike over unpaid wages – the factory responded by having union leaders arrested. This wage and severance theft stretches far beyond Cambodia across Adidas’ global supply chain. 

It is not that Adidas does not know that it carries responsibility to ensure that workers in its supply chain are paid what they are owed. In 2013, Adidas finally paid the PT Kizone workers in Indonesia who had fought for two years for the 1.8 million USD severance they were owed after losing their jobs.

It is time for Adidas to sign a binding agreement on wages, severance and the freedom to organise to ensure that workers in its supply chain never have to go without their full wages and severance again.

Spotlight on Hulu Garment

Hulu Garment, a sewing facility located in Phnom Penh, Cambodia supplying Adidas, as well as Amazon, Walmart, Macy’s, and LT Apparel Group, suspended its entire workforce of 1,020 workers in March 2020.

As the end of the suspension period neared, management called workers in and told them on 22nd April that, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the factory had no orders and may need to lay off workers.

Management also told workers to “sign” a document with their thumb print in order to receive their pay, explaining: “you have to sign; otherwise, we cannot wire your last wage.”

All Hulu Garment workers signed the document that day, without realizing that buried in the document was a sentence stating they were resigning. Management hid the word “resignation” appearing at the top of each letter by affixing the worker’s most recent payslip to cover it.

This is just one example of wage and severance theft in Adidas’ supply chain. It is time for Adidas to make wage theft a thing of the past, and sign a binding agreement negotiated with unions. 

Emergency relief needed for Sri Lanka’s economic crisis

Emergency relief needed for Sri Lanka’s economic crisis

 emergency relief 
 needed in Sri Lanka’s 
 economic crisis
 

Trade unions and worker rights organizations, including the Clean Clothes Campaign, Labour behind the Label, Maquila Solidarity Network, War on Want and Workers United have written a letter expressing their solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka.

Trade unions and worker rights organizations, including the Clean Clothes Campaign, Labour behind the Label, Maquila Solidarity Network, War on Want and Workers United have written a letter expressing their solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka.

They’re calling on upon national governments, international financial institutions, private sector enterprises (including international brands and retailers sourcing garments from Sri Lanka), and other stakeholders to support a program of emergency relief, mid and long-term financial support, and a democratic political solution to the crisis.

Sri Lanka’s apparel and textile manufacturing industry is the most significant and dynamic contributor to Sri Lanka’s economy. The apparel industry employs about 350,000 workers. Sri Lanka’s 1,000 plus factories supply nearly half of all merchandise exports and contribute 6% of the island nation’s gross domestic product. Sri Lanka is among the top apparel-producing countries in the world relative to its population.

The rising cost of shipping and logistics has been a growth impediment factor in the apparel industry but the current crisis seems to be hurting the business the most. A loss of buyers’ confidence in the industry because of the “political instability” is a real risk. Small-to-medium scale apparel makers are being badly effected by the countries energy crisis and fuel shortages, affecting their ability to transport goods, provide staff transport, or generate power. Anti-Government protests across the country have also impacted workers ability to reach their factories because of lack of transportation.

In a statement released late last month, the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) warned of “serious negative consequences” if policymakers continue to drag their feet on the sweeping reforms required to put the island nation back on track. The crisis has brought about widespread food, fuel and medicine shortages, sky-rocketing inflation and mass protests calling for the president’s resignation.

Export earnings in Sri Lanka’s clothing sector for the June to August period are set to fall by 20-25%. Sri Lanka’s Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) secretary-general Yohan Lawrence told Just Style in terms of the value, this is “nearly a loss of $125m per month for the next three months.”

In most of the apparel factories, the management is now forced to spend 400 per cent more on fuel and generator costs, compared to the same period last year, which has pushed up overheads. With fewer operating hours, workers are likely to get paid one-third less this month as they don’t work over-time.

Any strategy to stabilise the economy, JAAF secretary-general Yohan Lawrence says, must prioritise support to apparel manufacturers large and small.

Read the solidarity letter from Trade unions and worker rights organizations, including the Clean Clothes Campaign, Labour behind the Label, Maquila Solidarity Network, War on Want and Workers United here

Sri Lanka's economic crisis

The Sri Lankan government has blamed the Covid pandemic, as well as bomb attacks in 2019 for the current economic crisis. However, many experts blame the government’s poor economic management.  

Protests in the country started in the capital, Colombo, in April 2022 and spread across the country. The country is running out of fuel for essential services and people are struggling with daily power cuts and shortages of fuel, food and medicine. 

UK Industry: Leicester garment worker tells his story

UK Industry: Leicester garment worker tells his story

 UK Industry:
 Missguided Worker 
 shares his story 

A former worker from a Missguided factory in Leicester shares his story of how he came to work in the UK.

I am 28 years of age. I work in one of the garment factories in the UK and I live in Leicester.

I came from India few years ago. In India I live in Moti Daman a place in Gujarat near Mumbai. When I was in India, I heard many stories of the UK. How you can earn so much money, there are very nice houses, people are very nice, the government supports you in every way, free health care, free education, you can find jobs easily and can save a lot of money, buy so many things like a brand-new mobile within a month, designer clothes, watches, perfumes and living a life of a King.

It made me dream about going to the UK and living my life in the best way possible. I saw when people use to come back home from UK, they use to bring many presents, such as clothes, perfumes, luxury item, watches, chocolates, and lots of money. They always said how wonderful UK is and how much money they earned and how successful they became.

I tried to get my passport and visa sorted to come to the UK desperately. My parents sold many valuable items such as Gold & Land, which my father worked hard to have all his life. They were also in the hope that if I came to the UK I can earn money and send home and this way whatever lost can be returned and have a lot more.

Being the only son all the responsibility of looking after my parents was mine. I have 3 younger sisters to marry and, in our culture, we have to pay dowry, without this no one would accept my sisters hand in marriage.

When I came in the UK, I only had an option to come to Leicester as my relatives live here and can support me for short time until I find work and I settle. I knew I could only ask there help for max 2 weeks and I started hunting for work ASAP. Straight away it hit me that the biggest issue I will face is language barrier. Wherever I went I couldn’t communicate and when someone is unable to communicate it becomes same like a person who is mute. I started realising that I am so disabled in this country. I felt I was in need all the time.

Cont. in second column.

Missguided crisis

Fast fashion brand Missguided went into administration in May 2022 leaving a wake of unpaid debts to suppliers and workers owed wages. The worker from this story was a victim of this crisis and is owed money.

Labour Behind the Label have been campaigning for the Missguided workers who are owed wages to be paid, including holding demonstrations alongside workers outside the offices of their administrators, and their investors. You can sign the petition to Missguided in solidarity.

The relatives suggested to find work at a factory as that is the only place you will be able to find work without any qualification or skills etc. I thought it was a great opportunity to find work and start working towards my dream of living like a King. I straight away realised that this job doesn’t require skills because you just must work as a donkey without any communication.

You are expected to start work at 7am and finish at 7pm, at first I had no idea about minimum wage so when I was offered £4ph I was very happy and I calculated that monthly I would receive a lot of money compare to India. Soon reality hit me as I started to realise most of my money was going in paying tax, rent, bills and only very little was left for me which I used for clothes, food, medicines, and other necessities. 

I also realised at first doing a 12-hour shift was not an issue as I needed job and money desperately, but then when I started to get very tired, I realised it’s a long day shift and it started to affect my health. I also became very upset and depress as I was not able to save any money to send back home to pay of my loan and to support my family.

Everyday I use to get calls and messages from my family asking when I will send money? I used to explain my reality here, but they failed to understand and thought I am just enjoying life and spending money for my own leisure. This made me more upset and depress, I lost all the hope and started becoming grumpy and fed up with life.

I started avoiding calls of my family and not replying to their messages, this made me lonelier and more found myself alone to fight this situation. I slowly made some friends at my factory workplace where I learnt many things such as minimum wage, sick pay, holiday pay, and some of my rights as a worker.

This was after working for 5 years for this factory, I lost so much in the meantime and wondered if I knew about this before my life would have been so much easier and better in many ways. I even lost trust from my own family and had to break ties with them. They must be suffering a lot without paying of the loan by me not sending any money to them. This haunts me every night and I can’t sleep. I sometimes think to even commit suicide and end all my troubles and worries.

When I questioned my boss about the rights of workers and how I should be getting paid minimum wage, I started getting excuse such as how the orders are being cancelled by brands and how there is not enough work for everyone, and this could even be the last month of my work.

Just by listening to this I get scared to ask anything to my boss, I just keep my head down and work as I worry that I will lose my job and will not have a roof on my head. I have nowhere to go and no one to support me. I also heard that there is no help for a single person. No benefits from the government no support. I would have to live on streets and beg for money & food.

I am helpless and not sure how long I will be continuing living like this. Do I have any other option? Is there anyone that can help me? I have no idea but for now I am surviving with my struggles…

Missguided: Pay your workers first

Missguided: Pay your workers first

Demand Missguided pay workers first

The online fast fashion brand Missguided currently owes millions of pounds in unpaid bills to suppliers around the world. This is impacting on workers, many of whom are owed thousands of pounds in wages and payments. Missguided must put its workers first and make sure its debts are paid to those who can’t afford to take on the cost of its business difficulties.

What is happening at Missguided?

After experiencing rapid growth during the pandemic when online shopping hit an all-time high, Missguided has reportedly entered a period of financial difficulty. The brand is failing to pay its suppliers, which is having a devastating impact on workers.

Many suppliers making Missguided clothes report that Missguided has demanded extensive discounting of up to 30% on existing orders, leaving suppliers to foot the bill. Overseas suppliers report not having been paid at all for months – some since January – without any notification. Payments to UK suppliers halted in May. Some suppliers report that Misguided has been placing new orders, despite knowing that they won’t, or can’t pay. 

In December 2021, Alteri Investors stepped in to restructure the business, and then payments started to falter. Now staff are quitting the head office. No word has come from Missguided about how they will fix this problem. This is having a big impact on workers, hundreds of whom have not received their wages and many whom have been laid off with no notice.

“We believe that all workers in our supply chain should be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect…”

Missguided website

Whatever comes next for Missguided they must make sure that workers who have already made their clothes are at the top of the list of those who need to be paid. Join us in calling on Alteri Investments, and the chair of Missguided, Ian Gray, to treat suppliers and workers with the fairness and respect they deserve.

SIGN AND SHARE NOW TO CALL ON MISSGUIDED TO PAY UP FOR ITS ORDERS

FAO Alteri Investments and Missguided chair Ian Gray

Dear Charles Edwards, Gavin George and Ian Gray,

As chair and investors of Missguided, I'm getting in touch to highlight the non-payment of suppliers in Missguided's supply chain and to call on you to put workers first when making decisions about the future of the Missguided company.

Following extensive discounting with suppliers, and now the halt on all payments, many of your suppliers globally and in the UK are facing serious financial difficulty. In turn, workers who made Missguided clothing have not been paid wages and many have been let go with no certainty of their future employment, according to Labour Behind the Label.

I'm calling on Missguided to resume payments to suppliers and ensure that workers who made its clothes are being paid. If Missguided does indeed find new investment, will you make sure that workers and suppliers receive the money they are owed and are properly compensated? Given that the Missguided brand purports to stand for fairness, dignity and respect, I'm calling on you to make sure the people at the bottom of your supply chain aren't the ones left to bear the cost of the business restructuring.

Please let me know what you plan to do about this issue.

Yours Sincerely,
%first_name% %last_name%

%%your signature%%

Neo Trend workers from NEXT supplier left with nothing

Neo Trend workers from NEXT supplier left with nothing

 pandemic crisis: 
 next FACTORY 
 workers
left with 
 nothing 

Workers from Turkish NEXT supplier Neo Trend owed thousands after pandemic factory closure

NEXT supplier Neo Trend in Turkey closed down in the middle of the pandemic and the factory owner fled the country, leaving workers with nothing. The 104 workers who were employed there are calling for justice. NEXT must ensure workers are paid what they are owed.

Neo Trend Textile closed officially on 1 July 2021 due to loss of orders in the pandemic. The factory had put workers on suspended leave in Spring 2020, and workers had been told that they would be paid for this leave as per government regulations. Workers were protected from being dismissed during this period because the Turkish government had introduced a ban on dismissals for the duration of the covid-19 lockdown. However, after the final order for buyer Next had been completed by a small group of workers towards the end of August 2020, the factory owner started emptying out the factory and selling all factory assets. When workers returned to work at the end of the lockdown in July 2021, the 104 workers of Neo Trend found the factory closed and were left empty-handed without their due severance, notice and other allowances.

The factory owner has transferred all financial resources out of the company and left the country, meaning workers have no access to justice via the courts in Turkey. Neo Trend workers have tried to get support from Next, which according to worker testimonies was the only buyer, since the fall of 2021. While Next representatives attended a meeting with a union that was supportive of the workers, this did not result in any concrete outcome. A group of workers has approached the Clean Clothes Campaign network for support in this case. They have since established a formal Worker Committee to represent themselves. At this time, 30 workers are participating, and it is these workers whom the CCC network is seeking remedy for, although it is possible that more may come forward in due course. Unfortunately, Next has refused to engage with the worker committee. The company has merely offered their support if “the workers choose to pursue a legal avenue as per local labour law”, which is highly unlikely to result in any payment to the workers for the aforementioned reasons.

It is clear to us that in cases of factory closure in countries with limited or no recourse to justice for workers, buyers in supply chains have a duty to ensure that workers are not left without their legally owed severance and wages, as outlined in the UNGPs. As the rights situation in any given country is clear to brands when making sourcing choices, the much-reduced risk that brands enjoy the vast majority of the time, needs to be offset by a responsible approach taken when the liability for workers’ rights isn’t picked up by suppliers. Factory closures are a case in point, where the disappearance of employers doesn’t remove the duty on companies further up the supply chain to ensure that workers are dismissed legally with the full amounts owed under the law. We are requesting that NEXT, as the main buyer, engage constructively to ensure the sum that is owed to these workers is transferred to them.

Question at NEXT AGM

We are attending the NEXT PLC AGM on Thursday 19th May to ask questions about the Neo Trend Workers’ case and to ask NEXT to pay workers what they are owed. Their board and financial backers will all be gathered in a room in Leicester UK, and activists are going to raise the struggle of the Neo Trend workers there and call on the company board to respond. You can read the text of our question here.

Can you support this by sending NEXT a message? Click the button below to send a tweet to NEXT.