Bierbaum-Proenen GmbH & Co. KG, Complaint 518

CONCERNING LABOUR STANDARDS
There is no discrimination in employment Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining Payment of a living wage
STATUS
Resolved
DATE
2017-07-21

The complainant filled the following:
- On 18 July 2017 the Tunisian government announced to raise the wages for garment workers. According to the worker (complainant), management declared on the 21st that the wages would not be increased accordingly.

- During production, it was discovered that 50 pieces were stolen and discovered. Management responded by starting an investigation. Management requested workers to be searched. According to the worker, management had threatened workers to deduct 30 Tunisian Dinars from their salaries if they would refuse.

- One of the workers discussed both issues with management on behalf of the workers. According to the complainant, it was a fierce discussion leading to a one day suspension for that worker.

Management immediately contacted the local FWF team after the discussions and suspension. They informed the local FWF team, including the complaints handler that:
- The wage increase will be paid;
- The factory has systems in place to find stolen goods and management was only speeding up the controls. Not all workers would be searched and if workers would refuse, they would not be searched.
- One of the workers threw him/herself into the crowd that came complaining to the administration about the search and theft. Management claims that this person did not show any respect for the director. Therefore, the worker was suspended for one day. The worker refused to sign the suspension. Furthermore, the worker would have incited other workers to stop working and leave their workstations if the worker would not be allowed to return to the workstation.
- After this event, the manager was phoned anonymously on behalf of the union control that they were planning an unannounced visit based on allegations made known to them.

Findings and conclusions

On 21 July 2017, FWF’s complaints handler in Tunisia received a complaint from a factory worker, who claimed that the factory/company was not willing to increase workers wage according to the legal wage increase by the government, which has caused unrest amongst the factory workers. In addition, it was discovered that 50 pcs of the garment were stolen during production and management requested workers to be searched During the discussion between the HR and workers the complainant was accused of misbehaviour and therefore suspended for one day.
FWF declared this complaint admissible and informed Bierbaum-Proenen about the case, the FWF member sourcing at this factory.
Bierbaum-Proenen reached out to factory management, who stated that the wage increase would only be effective when the Tunisian authorities would approve the wage increase that was negotiated between the social partners. This was not yet the case. Therefore, the wage increase could not yet be implemented. A meeting between the Commission Paritaire Consultative and the workers led to unrest due to misunderstanding of information. The case was then handed over to the police. The stolen goods have not yet been returned. Acts that led to the suspension of the worker were: inciting co-workers to lay down their work, scolding of the director and (attempting to) physically attack the director and HR manager.
FWF called the complainant to verify the situation, who said that the allegations about the worker that had been suspended for one day were all falls, including allegations on inciting workers to lay down work or insulting management. After two weeks, the complainant was informed by the HR manager that she/he would not be allowed to work until the case was dealt with the disciplinary committee. The complainant contacted the labour inspection and UGTT.
The reconciliation meetings with the labour inspector were no successful. The complainant was offered an indemnity by the factory management, an agreement on the amount couldn't be reached, and the case was taken to the Tunisian court.
The company has received the official court decision regarding the complaint which was to pay 10035.391TND to the complainant. Both parties accepted the court decision. On 2 September 2019, the company has paid by cheque the above-mentioned amount to the notary to hand-over the cheque to the complainant.
FWF’s complaints handler contacted the complainant, who confirmed that he/she had received the cheque issued by the company. This case is resolved.

Overview of the complaint investigation

2017-08-02 Investigation

FWF informs Bierbaum-Proenen about the case. The brand contacted the supplier and asked for a reply on the following issues:
- Payment of the wage increase
- Procedure in case of stolen goods, whether the stolen goods and the responsible person were found, and what other actions factory management has undertaken to find the stolen goods and the responsible person.
- Whether actions against the worker were taken in accordance with the disciplinary procedure.

Management responded by stating the following:
- According to their accountant, the wage increase would only be effective when the Tunisian authorities would approve the wage increase that was negotiated between the social partners. This was not yet the case. Therefore, the wage increase could not yet be implemented.
- Together with the Commission Paritaire Consultative (a committee existing out of representatives of the employer and employees), management took steps to solve the theft of the stolen goods. They requested the commission to inform management of all relevant facts and information.
- The director informed all employees that the loss of value would have to be paid by the employees, 27 TND per worker. The director did not wish to truly execute this measure, also because it would not be possible to execute it.
- A meeting between the commission and the workers led to unrest due to misunderstanding of information. The case was then handed over to the police. The stolen goods have not yet been returned.
- Acts that led to the suspension of the worker were: inciting co-workers to lay down their work, scolding of the director and (attempting to) physically attack the director and HR manager.

After FWF received the statement from management, the FWF complaints handler contacted the complainant again.

According to the complainant, the allegations about the worker that had been suspended for one day were all falls, including allegations on inciting workers to lay down work or insulting management.

On 14 August, the factory had resumed production after the summer break, including the worker that was previously suspended. After two weeks, the worker was called to the office of the HR manager again. In the presence of a lawyer, the HR manager informed the worker that the worker would not be allowed to work until the case was dealt with by the disciplinary committee.

The worker then contacted the labour inspection and UGTT, the trade union. The labour inspection told the worker to await the decision of the disciplinary committee. The trade union will visit the factory on the 29th of August to have a reconciliation meeting with management.
The reconciliation meeting with the labour inspector on 29 August could not find a solution and another meeting was set up on 6 October 2017.
The complainant was offered an indemnity by the factory management, an agreement on the amount couldn't be reached, and the case was taken to the Tunisian court.

Currently, the case is in the court, the next session is scheduled for 20 September 2018.

2017-08-29 Conclusion of the investigation

According to Tunisian law, wage increases need to be approved by the Tunisian government after they have been negotiated between the social partners. After publication of such measures in the state journal, the wage increase comes into effect. Factory management was therefore right that the wage increase could not be paid until the approval was effective. The publication by the Tunisian government was done on the 28 of August 2017.

The industrial tribunal of the Bizerte district court has pronounced its verdict in the case between the company and the complainant bearing the number 49024 on 17 January 2019.
The court ruled that the plaintiff's dismissal was unfair and ordered the company to pay her premiums and damages at the rate of 9.000TND.
The company accepts this verdict and is willing to pay the 9.000,00 TDN as soon as they will be requested to do so.

2019-09-06 Remediation

The company has received the official court decision regarding the complaint which was to pay 10035.391TND to the complainant.
Both parties accepted the court decision.
On 2 September 2019 the company has paid by cheque the above mentioned amount to the notary, who will hand-over the cheque to the complainant.

2019-10-18 Verification

The local Fair Wear complaint handler contacted the complainant to verify receiving the payment as per the court's decision. The complainant confirmed receiving a cheque of 10035.391TND issued by the company.

2019-10-18 Resolved

This complaint is resolved.