Question to the board of Associated British Foods plc
AGM date: 9th December 2022
Venue: Congress Centre, 28 Great Russell Street, London
Time: 11.00

Question on factory closures and compensation for workers

My name is Meg, and I’m here today from Labour Behind the Label. My question today is about Primark’s approach to factory closures and compensation for workers in production countries following supply chain disruption, past and future. The garment industry is facing a crunch point as the global economic downturn sends shockwaves through all economies, and the lowest paid in supply chains feel the impact. Garment suppliers both here in the UK and overseas have reported a drop in orders from brands, which is further squeezing businesses still reeling from pandemic-related financial loss. This in turn results in factory closures. Losses are passed on to workers, as short term contracts are not renewed, and compensation and wages are not paid. A Business and Human Rights Resource Centre report shows that unionised workers have been unfairly targeted due to union membership and organising. Social protection and freedom of association should be the nets in place to ensure workers are protected from these kind of economic shocks, but we all know that social protection globally is lacking for the majority of workers who make clothing.

In the AB Foods Responsibility Report 2022, you state that “The erosion of workers’ rights, and the ongoing effects of COVID-19 pose a significant threat to [workers’] quality of life” as well as risk to business supply chains, and also note that the UN Guiding Principles require businesses to have a systematic approach to human rights due diligence.

Given this background, my question relates to what Primark is doing to ensure its due diligence is met with respect to ensuring workers receive their pay and severance when factories do close. Specifically,

  • Does Primark ensure supplier reserves are enough to make wage payments and severance payouts in the event of closure as part of its responsible exit policy?
  • What is Primark’s response to requests from unions to join a binding severance guarantee fund to protect workers from bearing the cost of factory closures?

Finally, can the board speak to the concrete measures Primark has put in place to protect the right of workers to organise and bargain collectively?