Reactive: Primark must ensure recognition of women-led union in light of new report

by | Jun 20, 2024 | Blog, Press release

Image: Angela Christofalou, protests_photos

For immediate release: Thursday 20th June, 2024


  • A new report by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) has found that brands such as Primark are failing to fulfil commitments to freedom of association and collective bargaining, by relying on ineffective alternative representation structures instead of engaging with democratic trade unions.
  • The report ‘Just for show”: worker representation in Asia’s garment sector and the role of fashion brands and employers is based on case studies from six major garment-producing countries in Asia, as well as information from focus groups, surveys and interviews.
  • A key case study in the report, which highlights “the role of brands in perpetuating freedom of association violations and the privileging of alternative structures” is that of SAPL unit 1, a factory in Bangalore, India, which supplies garments to Primark, Bestseller and The Children’s Place.
  • This case study details how garment workers in SAPL unit 1 represented by women-led Garment Labour Union (GLU) have faced management intimidation, union-busting, refusal to recognise the union, and refusal to respect guarantees against victimisation for GLU’s workplace representatives under local law.
  • The case study also shows how Primark, Bestseller and The Children’s Place have failed to uphold freedom of association and collective bargaining at SAPL by: promoting workers’ committees instead of the trade union GLU; misinterpreting the law; defaulting to legal minimum standards; failing to situate their investigation findings in a context of union-bust; and not using their leverage to ensure their own policy commitments on freedom of association are implemented by their supplier. 
  • The report makes recommendations including that brands ensure their suppliers recognise trade unions where – as is the case at SAPL unit 1 – it is legally in their discretion to do so.

In response to the publication of this report and the findings made therein about SAPL unit-1, Rukmini, co-founder and current president of Garment Labour Union, said: 

GLU is a women-led trade union formed by garment workers ourselves in 2012. We have been organizing in SAPL unit-1 for 8 years, since 2016. Although women make up 85% of the workforce in the garment industry, it seems Management and Brands are shamefully not ready to formally recognize a women-led trade union.

Brands and Management only work for their profits, irrespective of many national and international guidelines like UNGP, European law, ILO convention, OECD guidelines. Workers on the production side and workers on the consumption side of the global garment industry put all their efforts into making the industry fairer but Brands and Management earn ever more profits through their tricky games”.

“The attitude of Brands and Management suggests that their ideal scenario would be to make workers work in conditions of bonded labour without being able to challenge violations of their rights. They assume that if they accept and recognise the union workers will be able to challenge rights violations and hurt their profit margins. For this reason they are not ready to accept the union”.

“We as a women-led trade union of garment workers believe that both workers and management are important in good industrial relations. But we have to ask why Brands and Management are ignoring a women-led trade union, why they still hesitate to recognise us after all these years.


Notes for editors:

  • For press enquiries please contact Maya Thomas Davis, Advocacy Lead at Labour Behind the Label, on: maya@labourbehindthelabel.org / +447491669231

  • Interviews with Garment Labour Union union available on request.