Complaints > Myanmar > Vaude Sport GmbH & Co. KG, Complaint 532

Myanmar - Vaude Sport GmbH & Co. KG, Complaint 532

Status
Resolved
Country
Myanmar
Date
10/08/2018
Complaint ID
532
Member involved
Vaude Sport GmbH &; Co KG
Filing party
Worker
Filed against
Factory management
Grounded
Yes

Concerning labour standards:

The case

The complainant reported that on 8/10/2018 the general supervisor made an order to collect 3000 MMK donation money from all workers at the factory to pay homage and respect towards the Chinese supervisor for Thadingyut festival (Burmese Buddhists usually pay respect towards elders or superiors during Thadingyut but offerings such as money or presents are optional). In his/her request, he/she mentioned that those who could not pay on that date could pay on the 15th of the month, but that the amount was fixed. Although the offering amount was quite a lot for the workers and most did not wish to pay, many ended up paying since they were afraid to decline the request of the all-supervisor. The money is collected by one worker for each production line and later brought to the general supervisor. Workers who did not pay the money, including the complainant, were threatened by the general supervisor saying "those who did not contribute with the donation, should be prepared to work OT during their lunch time. If you keep ignoring what I said, I am going to report you to the Chinese supervisor." On 9 October 2018, the general supervisor made another order to collect 1000 MMK from the workers to donate to the general and the line supervisor 500 MMK each, but the date to collect had not been set up yet.

A fixed donation of 3000 MMK was requested every year for Thadingyut. For Kahtain festival, workers were requested to donate as much as they wanted. The complainant thought 3000 MMK was already quite a lot if they were also asked to pay 1000 MMK in addition, and that he/she would not mind if he/she had to pay 1000 MMK only. He/she would like to have the right to donate as much as workers want without any threats and not by the fixed amount for Thadingyut donation in the future.

Findings and conclusions

On 8 October 2018, FWF received a call to the complaint helpline in Myanmar. The complainant reported that the general supervisor ordered workers to collect 3000 MMK as a donation to pay homage and respect to the Chinese supervisor for Thadingyut festival. Although the amount is quite high for most workers and do not wish to pay, they end up paying as they are afraid to refuse. Workers who did not want to make a donation, including the complainant, were threatened by the general supervisor who said that "those who did not want to pay, should be prepared to work overtime during their lunch time. If you keep ignoring what I say, I am going to report you to Chinese supervisor."

FWF declared this complaint admissible and informed Vaude, the FWF member sourcing at this factory. Vaude immediately contacted the factory management, reiterating FWF’s point of view that donating money should be voluntary. Vaude stressed that threatening workers with overtime during lunch time is unacceptable. Vaude asked the management to investigate on this complaint. Vaude also stressed that management must make a public announcement explaining that donations are not compulsory. Also, supervisors should be instructed that they are not allowed to threaten their workers.

Factory management agreed that all kinds of donation should be voluntary and without threats. The management investigated but no supervisor admitted the case. As requested by the brand, the factory, made an announcement to all workers and supervisors. The annoucement was also shared with Vaude. The factory furthermore indicated that it will encourage workers to report all cases of threats and forced donations directly to the factory management.

The complainant called FWF again indicating that the supervisor was very angry, using cursing words, and saying that he/she would find the complainant. The complainantwasscared and asked FWF not to call him/her and said that if there was any problem he/she would contact FWF. Also, the complainant indicated that he/she did not want FWF to inform the factory about this.

Vaude contacted the factory management again and asked to explain what they did after they received the complaint. Factory management responded that they had a meeting with all the supervisors where it was stressed that such behaviour was unacceptable and that donations should only be voluntary. Following this meeting, the supervisors informed all workers the following morning. Factory management also made a public announcement about it and posted it on the notice board. Vaude and the factory management agreed that the factory would include this in their factory rules and also into the orientation training for new workers. Vaude stressed that it is important that in general all supervisors and workers are aware that donations are voluntary and that it is not about blaming one person in particular. Furthermore, the factory management indicated that they want to encourage workers to solve such complaints internally but they feel that workers do not dare to do so. Therefore, Vaude and factory management agreed that it would be important to do something to strengthen the dialogue structure in the factory. FWF tried several times and through various ways to contact the complainant, but was not successful. Based on the information provided, FWF considered the case resolved. Vaude indicated that it would explore options to improve the internal communications between workers and management, e.g. through the SMART programme or through FWF's Worker Education Programme. This complaint is resolved.
See details

Overview of the complaint investigation

11/07/2018 Investigation

FWF member brand Vaude, sourcing at the factory, immediately contacted the factory management, reiterating FWF’s point of view that donating money should not be a requirement. It should be something decided upon voluntarily by the workers and not requested or required by elders/supervisors. Vaude stressed that especially the threatening of workers with OT during lunch time is not acceptable at all. Vaude asked the management to investigate this complaint. Vaude also stressed that that it is necessary to make a public announcement that money donations are not a requirement. Also, supervisors should be instructed that they are not allowed to threaten their workers.

11/09/2018 Remediation

Factory management responded to Vaude that they agree that all kinds of donation have to be voluntary and without threatening the workers. The management investigated amongst their supervisor but none of them admitted the case. As requested by the brand, the factory subsequently made an announcement to all workers and the Supervisors. The annoucement was also shared with Vaude. The factory furthermore indicated that it will encourage workers to report all cases of threats and forced donations directly to the factory management.

11/09/2018 Investigation

Both the complainant and the accused supervisor contacted FWF's complaints handler seperately.

The supervisor called FWF in the morning several times to explain that he/she made it clear to the workers that the donation was voluntary. From the conversation it became clear that he/she was the only supervisor who collected the highest amount because there are fewer workers in his/her building compared to others and he/she wanted to make sure that their Chinese supervisor was well respected. He/she denied the fact that he/she threatened the workers into paying for the donation. He/she just told them to pay the fixed amount if possible. If not, the workers could pay as much as they wanted. At the end of the conversation, he/she asked FWF the name of the complainant and how he/she contacted FWF. FWF explained that it is FWF policy to protect the identity of the complainant.

In the evening, the complainant called FWF indicating that the supervisor was so angry and cursing all over the place, looking for the complainant. According to the complainant, the supervisor suspected a few workers in his/her mind and announced that he/she will definitely find out the complainant and do something horrible to him/her. The complainant is now scared and asked FWF not to call him/her and said that if there’s anything, he/she would contact FWF. Also, the complainant indicated that he/she does not want FWF to inform this to the factory as he/she does not want to make things worse.

FWF informed Vaude of the above and suggested Vaude conveys the following to factory management:

1. The policy should be made crystal clear to workers and supervisors: donation are 100% voluntary and will be made anonymously by workers in the future.
2. Supervisor are under pressure to show their respect by giving a high donation. Management should reassure all supervisors that they will not be judged/blamed based on the amount received from workers.
3. Based on the above, supervisors should be urged not to make any investigation/enquiry into the identity of the possible complainant(s). Workers who complained should have their identity protected.
It is suggested that this message is brought in a subtle way and as part of an overall approach. In order not to fuel the emotions further, it is advised that the management does not inform the supervisor in question about the fact that the complainant contacted FWF saying that the supervisor threatened to find out the identity of the complainant and retaliate against him/her. It is important that the supervisor is calmed down and encouraged to cease his/her pursuit.
4. Internal grievance system should be clearly announced to all workers. If any workers is pressured to give a high donation, workers should be able to raise their objections anonymously.
5. Furthermore, as the accused supervisor became so emotional, FWF suggested that the accused supervisor needs comfort from the management who blamed him/her personally, and be convinced not to cause any retaliation. Proper training regarding wages and benefit for all supervisors would help him/her understand better. FWF suggested that it is important to make him/her feel he/she is not the only one who is warned on this; it is just a factory policy that everyone should be aware of.

11/15/2018 Investigation

Vaude contacted the factory management again and asked it to explain what they did after they received the complaint. Factory management responded that they had a meeting with all the supervisors in which they stressed that such behaviour is unacceptable and that workers can only donate voluntary if they want. Following this meeting, the supervisors informed all workers about this in the morning meeting. Factory management also made a public announcement about it and posted it on the notice board.

Vaude and the factory management agreed that the factory will include this in their factory rules and also in the orientation training for new workers.

Vaude stressed that it is important that in general all supervisors and workers are aware that donations are voluntary and that it is not about blaming one person in particular.

Furthermore, the factory management indicated that they want to encourage workers to solve such complaints internally but feels that workers do not dare to do so. Therefore, Vaude and factory management agreed that it will be important to do something to strengthen the dialogue structure in the factory.

06/06/2019 Resolved

FWF tried several times and through various ways to contact the complainant, but was not successful. Based on the information provided, FWF decided to consider the case resolved. Vaude indicated that it will explore options to improve the internal communications between workers and management, e.g. through the SMART programme or through FWF's Worker Education Programme.

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