For each and every mum, Tesco?

Tesco claims to care for all families and to celebrate the care that mothers all over the world provide. But the families of 130 migrant garment workers in Thailand who made Tesco jeans are being forced into further poverty and debt because Tesco refuses to do the right thing. 

99-hour working week, no sickness or holiday pay, one day off a month, no access to your own passport, sexual harassment and abuse – these are just some of the horrific conditions Burmese migrant workers had to endure making clothes for Tesco at VK Garment in Thailand.  The VK Garment workers were fired in 2020 after they spoke out to a reporter about the exploitation they were facing. Now they are suing Tesco and calling for justice. 

Tesco must act

The 130 VK Garment workers are bringing legal action against Tesco. Tesco must pay them what they are owed and come to the negotiation table with the workers’ lawyers to agree a settlement.

Thi Thi Aye, 22 years old, mother of one

“The date was 21 August 2020. In the morning they asked us to sign a document which we refused to sign and then they said be outside of the compound after 4pm. That document, we didn’t understand it because it was in Thai and they wouldn’t translate it even though we requested this.

I had a lot of emotions. I was thinking how can the employer discriminate and take advantage of us workers, this makes me really sad. The factory didn’t even want to pay us minimum wage and now they dismissed us and also ruined our chances of being employed elsewhere by sharing our photos.

At the time I was pregnant and so I was desperate to find work because of my child. I had to borrow money so that I could go to the hospital for checks up during my pregnancy. VK Garments knew I was pregnant when they dismissed me.

We have a lot of difficulties. My husband still can’t find proper work so as a daily wage worker he has to work in the rice field or if there’s no work there he does construction jobs here and there. I’ve recently started working at a restaurant but I don’t get minimum wage and it’s not a secure job.

I need to borrow money to take care of my boy – he’s two and a half years old – and for the rent and food. I feel really sad sometimes because we don’t always have enough or proper food for my child.

I skip meals sometimes and have reduced my food intake for some time now. Even though I want to eat I need to stop because of the situation we’re in. Even when we have money, from my husband’s wages, I can’t buy things to eat because there’s a lot of debt, so we spend this on the interest rate. We’ve had to rely on a vegetable that you find here on the roadside (water green, a type of plant). We have fried that for food.

My future is my child and I would like to provide for him with better education and solve the debt issue very quickly. My boy is almost three years old. Maybe next year he’ll be ready to go to primary school. I want to make sure he gets a better education. It’s the only way we can escape from the current difficulty.”

You delivered a message 

On Mother’s Day, activists hid spoof cards in Tesco stores to to raise awareness of the story of the VK Garment workers who made Tesco’s jeans in forced labour conditions. We hit Tesco stores in 17 cities, and we reached thousands online.

Tesco tells us it celebrates each and every mum. But what about the mothers who were working with no day off and still weren’t making enough to send their children to school? These same mothers are now in heavy debt and their lives and the lives of their children are put on pause as the workers struggle to get justice, 3 years on.

The former VK Garment workers need urgent action. They need Tesco and Intertek to accept responsibility and settle the lawsuit against them so they can begin to rebuild their lives.

Let’s show Tesco we truly care for each and every mum – even those they’d rather we didn’t know about!

VK Workers Call out Tesco hypocricy

Hear from the VK Garment workers in their own words about the situation they faced. They aren’t just suing Tesco – the social auditing company Intertek who failed to report the exploitation they witnessed are also negligent and need to pay workers compensation. You can hear more about their role also in this video. 

If you want to act further, please sign our petition and send a message to both Tesco and Intertek CEOs calling on them to pay the VK Garment workers what they are owed.