Bel&Bo-Fabrimode NV, Complaint 732

CONCERNING LABOUR STANDARDS
Employment is freely chosen Payment of a living wage Reasonable hours of work Legally binding employment relationship
STATUS
Closed
DATE
2019-07-29

There is excessive and forced overtime:
a) Three hours of overtime (OT) is regular practice, i.e., the workers work from 9am to 9pm.
b) On almost every Saturday, there is night OT, i.e. up to 4am.
c) Frequently Sundays (weekly off) is also worked
d) Overtime is generally forced. Only in very exceptional conditions a worker may be excused, otherwise if any one refuses to do OT, he or she is threatened to be fired and actually get fired if they don't do the OT.
e) for example: i) On 29th June 2019(the second day of FWF audit), there was night OT up to 4am next day; ii) Sunday (30th June, weekly off) was also worked from 9am to 5pm; iii) Monday-1st July was again night OT up to 4am; iv) Tuesday- 2nd July was again night OT up to 4am.
e) It was in these conditions, 3 stitching workers in production line No.1, refused to do night OT on Tuesday. They were fired on the same day.

2. There is production incentive that increases workload to very high levels. For example, for checkers, normal target is 40-45 pieces per hour and remains the same through out the day, including OT. This is already a difficult target to normally achieve and maintain for total working hours. A production incentive of Rs 40-50 per day is offered to workers if they achieve the target of 60-70 pieces per hour for total working hours including OT. For the same target incentive for supervisors is Rs 500 per day and for production incharge Rs 1000 per day. This production incentive scheme creates an atmosphere of mad rush; supervisors and production incharge do not allow the workers to drink water or go to toilets, they are always pushing the workers or forcing the workers to work fast. This becomes a torture for workers.

4. Overtime is paid only at single hourly rate. Salary and OT payments are transferred in workers accounts separately so that auditors can not trace the actual OT hrs and OT payments. Generally there is a gap of 1-2 days between transfer of salary and OT payments. In the month of June, salary including a part of OT was transferred on 4th June and rest of OT was transferred on 7th June. It was similar in July. Both payments are transferred in the same bank account of workers, but it is not clear from the sms messages received by workers whether it is transferred from same company account or different company accounts.

5. Workers are fired without following legal procedure and without paying severance compensation. The workers are compelled to sign resignation letter other wise their due wages are not paid, therefore the workers have ultimately no choice. And in such conditions they are not paid any notice pay and retrenchment compensation. They only get payment for bonus and earned leave.

6. The company pays gratuity only Rs 25000 irrespective of length of service whether 5 or 10 years. This is a kind of fixed amount for all who leave after completing more than 5 years. It is not calculated as 15 days wages for every completed year of service.

On the ground that the company has not enough work, the company is planning to fire large number of workers in such a way that one production floor may be closed and only 2 out of three production floors may remain functional. However, on the one hand it is said that work is reduced and on the other hand, the work targets for workers are same or even increased. As mentioned earlier work targets are extremely high which workers are forced to meet and as a result there is very little time for toilet breaks, drinking water and lunch break.

Downsizing is going on by way of following methods:
a) If new workers (up to 4-5 months) go on leave they are fired when they return to work
b) around 50 workers (worked here for few years) are sent on leave of 20-30 days. If they are eligible for any outstanding leave, then these leaves are adjusted in this, and rest of the leave days are considered as absence---this simply means that they are sent on unpaid leave.

There was a worker named Raju, who was working during the last audit. Either on last day of audit or the next day, while going to his room after working the night overtime, he faced an accident. He was admitted to the ESI hospital. After more than a week's treatment he was discharged from the hospital, but he was still not in a position to work and so ESI hospital in its discharge slip clearly wrote that he has to take rest for some days. But when he submitted this discharge slip and requested for leave, the HR was not ready to grant leave and rather asked him submit resignation. In these conditions he has no other options but to resign. This happened about 15 days back.
The above worker Raju worked in the company for about 7 years. But company has the policy to offer only Rs 25000 for gratuity irrespective of years of service. Therefore he was also paid only 25000 gratuity, although he was eligible for greater amount. Along with this he also probably paid the bonus and EL. Because the worker had to submit resignation and therefore he was not paid notice pay and retrenchment compensation.

Overview of the complaint investigation

2019-08-01 Investigation

Fair Wear shared the complaint with the member and member in turn shared the complaint with the factory.

2019-09-01 Investigation

Fair Wear contacted the complainant after receiving response from the management . The response of complainant is as below:

On factory's intention of laying off workers
1. One production floor is closed down and in July about 35-40 workers were fired and in August about 60 workers were fired
2. On 26 August 2019, 12-13 workers were fired but were asked to submit resignation letter. These workers were given a break (unpaid leave) for 10-12 days, but they reported for work about 2-3 days late from the date they were asked to report back so were fired.
3. Yes, Loyalty bonus is paid to the workers who are continuously working in the company for more than 2 years. But as factory claims- it applied to 210 workers only (out of 700+ workers), most of the rest are not able to complete 2 years.
4. Leaving is not at workers’ will. Generally the workers are fired and they are asked to submit resignation letter otherwise the full and final payment is with-held. The management might be paying notice pay but this is more an exception. It appears strange to see only one evidence of notice pay that too from 2015. In general, the notice pay is only for those who are considered in staff (master, in-charge, supervisor, cleaning staff, maintenance staff etc) and not for workers. This can be checked from full and final documents of the company for last one year. But in the recent case of termination of workers (July-Aug) most of the workers were new (less than a year) and were not eligible for notice pay.

On termination (firing) of Raju Kumar
1. This is correct that Raju kumar is still working in the company, he rejoined his duties on 30th August, after about 2 months.
2. But during the period when complaint was filed, the situation was different. Management was asking him to resign and take his full and final payment and he was requesting the management to continue him in services and accept the medical leave granted by ESI. Complainant spoke to Raju Kumar during this period when he was asked to resign and offered full and final payment but not later. The general understanding among workers is that management finally accepted Raju Kumar’s request which is very nice.
3. The payment of gratuity as per legal requirement (which goes above INR25000) may be correct; but in general this applies only to staff and not workers. In general there has been a gratuity cap of INR25000 for workers. This is known to all workers and this can also be checked in the FF documents of 2017 to 2019. Of the three evidence one is of staff (master) of May 2019.

On high target which is incentive based
1. This claim of company is not correct. There is very high work load. In my experience in other factories, our current target is almost double (70-75 pieces currently) of what it should be. Only those who are able to complete the target get their names listed for incentives and this is highly difficult for workers. The same high target is continuing even now. There was not much OT in August but the target and incentive system remained the same. This system makes the workers to work continuously without any rest. They try taking little or no time for toilet breaks or drinking water breaks. This also becomes a compulsion because if anyone is continuously not able to reach target he/she may not be considered efficient worker and then it may have consequences. This system becomes more problematic when there is long OT or night OT, because then targets are set for total working hours including OT hrs.

On forced overtime
1. Before August the OT and OT conditions were same as written in the complaint.
2. In July there was 40-45 hours of OT, and it was paid in the same way as reported in the complaint, i.e., part of OT is was paid and transferred in worker’s bank account with monthly wages, this OT was shown as paid at double hourly rate but actually paid at single hourly rate. The second part of OT was transferred separately and this was also paid at single hourly rate.
3. From August the OT decreased. and it does not appear to be compulsory, but before August OT was compulsory, and refusing to do OT had its consequences, sometimes resulting in firing of workers

2020-01-09 Closed

Odd Molly ended it's membership with Fair Wear and this restricts our capacity to follow up on the complaint. Because of this development this complaint is considered closed.