Concerning labour standards:
According to the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF), workers in the factory were in the process of forming a union. When factory management found out, the owner threatened to have the workers killed by terrorists, and subsequently forced 60 workers, including union leaders, to sign resignation papers. These illegally-terminated workers were not permitted to reenter the factory.
Findings and conclusions
Overview of the complaint investigation
The brand requested a response from the factory management, who claimed that some workers from the knitting section had created anarchy and destroyed factory equipment on the final day before the Eid vacation. The alleged reason for this was a late salary payment. According to management, heavy traffic en route from Dhaka prevented the salary payments from arriving on time, which made some workers impatient. Management decided to take legal administrative action against those workers involved. Management reported that some workers had decided to resign and submitted their resignation. They claimed that they accepted these resignations and made any payments according to law. They also denied having any information about workers' union registration.
The FWF complaints handler made several calls to affected workers, and on 8 October, FWF representatives interviewed victims and general workers outside the factory. Based on this, FWF established the following timeline of events:
In the month following Eid-Ul-Fitr, the supervisor and head of knitting, both brothers of the general manager, reportedly beat a worker because of a machine issue in the knitting section. Afterwards, factory workers protested and requested disciplinary measures for these men. The general manager assured them that the accused would be terminated. Nevertheless, the supervisor and head of knitting continued to come to the factory and signed the workers' registry. When workers asked about this, management claimed the pair was only working outside of the factory.
Workers also indicated that on 31 August 2017, one day before Eid-Ul-Adha vacation, management allowed workers to leave at 10:00, indicating that they were to return to collect their salaries at 17:00. But when they returned, they were prevented from entering the factory and told to return two hours later. Again, management turned them away and told them to return later. This happened a third time, by which point the workers were reportedly quite restless and angry. Also, some workers had already missed the transportation they had arranged to go see their families. Some workers started yelling at the management, but they denied damaging any factory equipment.
At midnight, management asked some workers to collect their payment from the general manager’s office. The general manager told workers that they would only be paid after signing resignation papers. Feeling helpless and in need of money, 35 workers signed and took the payment.
A worker from the jacquard section who is also a union member indicated that, on the payment day, the general manager asked him whether he/she was a union member and how many others he/she had convinced to join the union. The worker replied that he/she had been with the federation for the past eight years but had not forced anyone to get involved. The general manager allegedly responded by saying, ‘Don’t try to be smart. Otherwise we will take action against you’. Management then forced this worker to resign.
The next day (1 September), several workers filed a complaint against management for the forced resignations. That same day, the floor manager told these workers that the factory was not satisfied with their performance and that they would need to resign and collect their salary. As a result, five or six more workers signed the resignation papers.
On the first day after the Eid vacation, the workers saw the supervisor and head of knitting standing by the gate, making notes about the workers. A worker indicated that management subsequently asked him/her to resign. But when the worker inquired about the reasoning, management remained silent.
Around 20 to 25 workers who do not belong to any union also had to resign. According to them, they had protested against the delayed payment so management targeted them and made them resign. The terminated workers who had signed up to join the union claimed that management had been targeting them for some time because some of them had also been involved in the protest surrounding the supervisor and head of knitting.
Altogether, management reportedly forced nearly 60 workers to resign.
The FWF lead trainer and complaints handler met with factory management, a Takko brand representative and a buying agent to discuss the forced resignations.
FWF demanded to see some of the resigned workers' files and discovered false payment documentation in these files. When FWF tried to verify the signatures on the resignation papers, these appeared to be forged. Interviews conducted by phone indicated that workers had not received any payment. Most of the 60 workers had been working in the factory for three to five years so were not legally entitled to resignation benefits. Despite this, the union representatives requested compensation for the resigned workers, and management agreed to pay these workers their due salary, accrued leave, and to provide a set amount as compensation. FWF insisted that this payment take place in November and in front of a FWF representative.
On 30 November, management paid workers their due salary, payment for unused leave and negotiated compensation. The brand, agent, FWF, and union representative were present to ensure this proceeded correctly.
Follow-up evaluation indicated that both the NGWF representative and the workers were satisfied with the amounts received.