Complaints > Bangladesh > The Cotton Group S.A. (B&C), Stanley and Stella S.A., Complaint 423

Bangladesh - The Cotton Group S.A. (B&C), Stanley and Stella S.A., Complaint 423

Status
Resolved
Country
Bangladesh
Date
06/14/2018
Complaint ID
423
Members involved
The Cotton Group and Stanley and Stella S.A.
Filing party
Former worker
Filed against
Factory management
Grounded
Yes

The case

On 14 June FWF received a call to the complaint helpline of a worker, who is an active and outspoken member of the Anti-Harassment Committee. The complainant indicated that she was severely physically attacked on 14 June, the last day before Eid holiday, by some members of the factory’s management.

On that day, workers were called to the factory for salary payment, which started from 6.30 am. When salaries were handed out, 20 names were not included in the salary list. The complainant's name was among this 20. The workers were asked to go to the admin office on the 7th floor. When they were up on the 7th floor, the local police (including the chief of police) came to the 7th floor together with the top management, including the Compliance and HR Manager.

Subsequently, the 20 workers were locked in the room and were asked to hand in their mobile phones. Factory management indicated that they had proof that they were involved with the earlier incident on the 6th of June when a group of workers, who covered their faces with fabric, attacked several members of factory management, including one visiting buyer.

All the workers were told to sign resignation letters, receive their service benefits (severance pay) and never come back. They threatened them that if they would not accept, the police would arrest them, as (supposedly) they had proof of their involvement in the incident on 6 June. One by one workers signed after which they were escorted out of the building by 3 security guards. The complainant was worried and asked to sign first, but she was asked to wait until the end.

When it was her turn, and all other workers were gone, she signed the resignation letter and received the money. After that, the Compliance and HR Manager told the security guards to take her to a different floor where there are no camera’s and beat her up. The security guards were also told that if she protested she should be killed and her body be put in a cardboard box. She was severely beaten up. The Compliance and HR Manager actively participated in the beating. Photographic evidence was provided that illustrate the complainant's injuries and bruises.

When the complainant got out of the factory, she called FWF, who advised her to go to the hospital. The doctor signed a certificate that indicates that the injuries would qualify as a police case, which she could use if she decided to file a case with the police. However, the complainant is very apprehensive about going to the police, as the local chief of police was present at the factory and seen to be on the side of the factory management. She also realized that the envelope with money was taken from her bag, which she presumes to have happened while she was being beaten up.

Findings and conclusions

On 14 June FWF received a call to the complaint helpline of a worker, who is an active and outspoken member of the Anti-Harassment Committee. The complainant indicated that she was severely physically attacked on 14 June, the last day before Eid holiday, by some security guards as ordered by the factory's Compliance and HR manager who actively participated in the beating. FWF contacted the brands sourcing at the factory which immediately approached the factory management, expressing their concern and requesting a response from the factory management.

A meeting took place on 28 June with the complainant, the accused Compliance and HR Manager, the brand and FWF. During the meeting the factory denied the allegations and requested two weeks to conduct an internal investigation. In parallel, and in accordance with FWF’s complaints procedure, since the management denied the claims of the complainant, FWF decided to start an independent investigation as well. Brands were asked to ensure the support of the factory management to the investigation.

The internal investigation of the factory concluded that the allegations of the complainant were not authentic, while FWF concluded that the story of the complainant is in fact credible. FWF reviewed the internal investigation report of the factory and pointed out several discrepancies between the FWF investigation and factory's internal report. FWF informed that brands that the complainant had no other choice now than to file a case, which could result in media attention.

However, FWF received a call from the factory management which indicated that it had reconsidered because of the potential risks of the complaint to the factory's business and reputation. It confirmed the resignation of Compliance and HR Manager and payment of legal dues to the complainant. A final meeting the meeting took place on 2 August where the factory management showed the resignation letter of the Compliance and HR Manager and paid the complainant her legal dues. The complainant is satisfied to receive the amount and the confirmation about the resignation of the HR Manager. Based on this, she committed not to take her complaint elsewhere after this settlement.
See details

Overview of the complaint investigation

06/27/2018 Investigation

On 27 June, the FWF member brands sourcing at this factory, approached the factory management, expressing their deep concerns and calling on the factory management to cooperate with FWF in order to resolve the issue.

06/28/2018 Investigation

On 28 June, a joint meeting took place at the corporate head office of of the factory in Dhaka. Participants included the complainant, the accused Compliance and HR Manager, FWF and the brand. After the introductions, the complainant made a complete statement, describing what happened to her on 14 June. In response, the HR manager completely denied the allegations of physically abuse of the complainant, indicating that he was not even present at the time of the incident. He admitted that 20 workers were singled out for dismissal and settlement, as their internal investigation confirmed that those 20 workers were involved in the acts of vandalism on 5 June. The HR manager further indicated that on 10 June they called all 20 workers one by one and asked whether they are guilty or the acts of vandalism. He furthermore indicated that all 20 workers signed a statement confirming their direct involvement on the pre-planned acts of vandalism, ill-motivated to destroy the factory, and asking for an apology. The complainant denied that she signed any statement of such nature.

At the end of the meeting, the factory management requested two weeks in order to conduct an internal investigation. In parallel, and in accordance with FWF’s complaints procedure, since the management denied the claims of the complainant, FWF decided to start an independent investigation as well. Brands were asked to ensure the support of the factory management to the investigation.

07/11/2018 Investigation

On 11 July, FWF went to the factory for the internal investigation. FWF did not receive all the information they had requested. However, FWF concluded that there are some clear and crucial discrepancies between the information collected by FWF’s investigation and the statements made by factory management during the meeting at their head office on 28 June:

(i) FWF concludes that the accused Compliance and HR Manager were in fact present until the very last moment, including during the time of the incident as reported by the complainant;
(ii) Factory management was not able to show any of the admissions of guilt, except for the one belonging to the complainant (which she claimed was false). In addition, the co-worker of the complainant (who also forcefully resigned) confirmed that she did not sign any such document. Based on this, FWF concluded that there is no proof that the statements with admissions of guilt were in fact made. Based on the above, FWF concluded that the story of the complainant is credible.

07/17/2018 Investigation

The factory management shared the report of its internal investigation with the brand, which subsequently shared it with FWF. Contrary to FWF's investigation, the internal investigation of the factory concluded that the allegations of the complainant were not authentic.

07/19/2018 Conclusion of the investigation

The internal investigation of the factory concluded that the allegations of the complainant were not authentic, while FWF concluded that the story of the complainant is in fact credible. FWF reviewed the internal investigation report of the factory and pointed out several discrepancies between the FWF investigation and factory's internal report. FWF informed the factory that the brands that the complainant had no other choice now than to file a case, which could result in negative media attention.

The complainant indicated that she wants justice, including that the perpetrators are fired. She does not want to go back to the factory, but she wants to receive all her legal benefits. She worked there for more than 5 years and is entitled to service benefits, provident fund and due salary. The fact that the factory denied the whole incident, is not taking any action, and is not offering to pay compensation and service benefits to the complainant, means that the complainant has no other choice than to file a case. Media attention then also becomes likely, which may negatively impact on the reputation of factory and brands.

07/26/2018 Remediation

FWF received a call from the factory management which indicated that it had reconsidered because of the potential risks of the complaint to the factory's business and reputation. It confirmed the resignation of Compliance and HR Manager and payment of legal dues to the complainant.

08/02/2018 Remediation

A final meeting the meeting took place on 2 August with the following outcomes:

1) Factory management showed the resignation letter of the Compliance and HR Manager.

2) Factory management paid the complainant her legal dues. In total an amount of BDT 68,250 was provided to the complainant.


08/02/2018 Evaluation of the complaint

The complainant is satisfied to receive the amount and the confirmation about the resignation of the HR Manager. Based on this, she committed not to take her complaint elsewhere after this settlement.

08/02/2018 Resolved

The complaint has been resolved.

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