Deuter Sport GmbH, Mammut Sports Group AG, Outdoor & Sports Company Ltd., Complaint 245

CONCERNING LABOUR STANDARDS
Legally binding employment relationship
STATUS
Resolved
DATE
2017-06-24

On 24 June 2017, FWF received a call from the union leader, who lodged a complaint stating that the factory management unfairly fired a worker. FWF talked to the worker concerned. He said that he was told that he damaged 360 sets of clothes (chest width measurement was wrong), and thus was fired. He feels that the dismissal was not fair because the flaws would had been the responsibility of the line operators and QC staff and not him, as he only did ironing. The factory gave him the salary till last day of work plus 200,000 kyats for notice compensation. He did not realise/understand the whole story but signed the letter given by the factory HR and took the money.

Findings and conclusions

On 24 June 2017, FWF received a call from the union leader, who lodged a complaint stating that the factory management unfairly fired a worker who damaged 360 sets of clothes without proper regard for the applicable disciplinary procedures. FWF declared this complaint admissible and informed Deuter Sport GmbH, Mammut Sports Group and Outdoor &Sports Company, the FWF members sourcing at this factory. The members asked a response from the factory management. In addition, FWF conducted an investigation inside the factory which included interviews with all parties concerned. The investigation revealed that the worker was dismissed on 23 June 2017 for his unsatisfactory performance, high rate of repairs, and using abusive words towards his co-workers. On the day of 23 June 2017, the management received a letter of complaint signed by all workers from the ironing department requesting the management to move the complainant to another department because he stopped working for three days, and thus his co-workers could not accept his behaviour anymore.

The complainant's co-workers indicated that the complainant mostly initiated fights, in which he sometimes used or threw objects nearby him, such as a pair of scissors. FWF presented the case findings to the management and union in the closing meeting. FWF stated that from the procedural perspective, the worker should have three written warning letters and should only be dismissed the fourth time. However, if it is a serious misconduct, the management can dismiss the worker immediately without compensation. Serious misconduct includes physical attacks, causing disturbances, physical harassment and quarrelling, according to the workplace disciplines of the employment contract, all of which can lead to immediate dismissal.

It was confirmed that the complainant exhibits unacceptable behaviour towards his colleagues. His performance has been unsatisfactory due to high rates of repairs, difficulty in communicating with other co-workers, the use of objects nearby him to throw at other people, and refusal to get help for his unfinished work. The workers in the ironing department all agreed to submit the letter, though they did not mean to cause the termination of the complainant. The management tried to move the complainant to other departments but no department was willing to accept him. Therefore, a decision was made to terminate him to prevent any further negative situations. FWF concluded that the termination is justified because the rights of other workers should be also respected which is that they should enjoy the safe and healthy working environment although we acknowledged the view from the union leader who maintained that the worker was terminated improperly as he had only received three warning letters.

Overview of the complaint investigation

2017-06-26 Investigation

On 25 June 2017, the FWF complaints handler talked to the union leader and found out more details. The HR manager and Factory Director called her on Friday and told that they were going to fire the complainant for two reasons:
1) the whole ironing department sent a letter of complaint to the management to move him to another department because he did not share his repairs with other workers
2) he caused 360 sets of repair.

The union leader, however, indicated that the ironing department did not mean to have him fired, but the factory said that there was no place for him to move. The union leader also indicated that the responsibility for the cause of repairs (chest width measurements) should be shared among the production line i.e. line operators, QC, supervisors etc. Now, it seems like it is all on the shoulders of the complainant, which is not fair, as he is only responsible for ironing.

It also seems that there is no proper disciplinary procedure followed with an escalation of warning letters that led to the worker’s dismissal.

2017-07-10 Investigation

The brands approached the factory management and asked for its response.

In addition, FWF decided to investigate the case through interviews with the management, Union Leaders, the complainant; six workers from Ironing department (3 workers nominated by the complainant and 3 workers nominated by the factory), QC staff assigned to inspect the products from the complainant; the complainant's supervisor and the factory manager’s Chinese translator. In addition, FWF examined the the warning letters that were given to the complainant.

2017-07-20 Conclusion of the investigation

The complainant received the first written warning letter on 31 May 2016 for using the mobile phone at the workplace, second written warning letter on 27 May 2017 for using abusive words towards his supervisor, and promised that he would resign from the factory if he did it again. He got dismissed on 23 June 2017 for his unsatisfactory performance, high rate of repairs, and using abusive words towards his co-workers. On the day of 23 June 2017, the management received a letter of complaint signed by all workers from the ironing department requesting the management to move the complainant to another department because he stopped working for three days, and thus his co-workers could not accept his behaviour anymore. The co-workers explained the rationale for writing the letter as follows:
1. They all learned the different behaviours of the complainant at the workplace. He is nice sometimes but most of the time, he would use bad language to communicate with other colleagues and supervisor. When the supervisors and the colleagues came to help him, he used abusive language to make his colleague go away. The supervisor was badly spoken to in an aggressive and abusive manner that she seemed to embarrass her in front of her subordinates. Moreover, whenever there was a change in style, he tended to make a lot of mistakes while that was uncommon for others.
2. In the past, he was emotional 2/3 times a week only but starting from the past few months, he became more short-tempered and more frequently emotional. Within one year of working with him, one of his co-workers noticed that he has a habit of piling up the unfinished pieces. Usually, he can perform well but when a problem occurs in the process, he tends to ignore repairing the previous pieces to work on new products, and it resulted a big pile of pieces around him and consequently, others have to help him out.
3. He mostly initiated fights where he sometimes used objects nearby him such as scissors. Some of them got scratches and minor injuries but never blamed him as they have learnt his different mentality.
4. Everyone is concerned about the sensitivity of the situation because there is a potential physical fight with the complainant with one of them because all the workers in the ironing department are men except for the supervisor.
5. Therefore, everyone in ironing department agreed to sign on the letter which requested the management to move the complainant to another department.

FWF presented the case findings to the management and union in the closing meeting. FWF stated that from the procedural perspective, the worker should have three written warning letters and get dismissed at the fourth time. However, if it is a case of serious misconduct, the management can dismiss the worker immediately without compensation. According to the workplace disciplines of the employment contract, an employee being physically aggressive to the other workers in the workplace, causing disturbance, physical harassment, and quarrelling is considered as a serious misconduct, which can lead to immediate dismissal.

It was also confirmed that he has displayed unacceptable behaviour towards his colleagues, which can lead to more tension between him and other co-workers. His performance is unsatisfactory lately due to high rate of repairs, difficulty in communicating with other co-workers, the use of objects nearby him to throw at other people, and refusal to get help for his unfinished work. The workers in the ironing department were fully consented for submitting the letter though they did not mean to cause the termination of the complainant's contract. The management tried to move him to other departments but no department was willing to accept him. Therefore, there was a decision to terminate him to prevent any further negative situation at the workplace.

From the human resources management perspective, FWF indicated that the psychology of the workers at the workplace does matter, and thus the human resources management should be aware of the causes of stress, anxiety, depression and mental health of the workers at the workplace. Though there is no facility at the factory for staff counselling yet, FWF encouraged the union leaders to give time and talk to the workers who have high level of stress, anxiety or any sign of depression before it gets worse, as they know the situation of the workers better than the management, and if necessary, inform the human resources department for any kind of treatment.

2017-07-20 Resolved

FWF observed that the management did not follow the normal disciplinary procedure, and did not discuss with the union leaders before they made the decision to terminate the complainant's contract. The union leaders generally felt that they had been informed very abruptly about the management's decision and they had no say in the matter. Although he agreed to FWF findings, the union leader who maintained that the worker was terminated improperly.

FWF concluded that the termination is justified because the rights of other workers should be also respected which is that they should enjoy the safe and healthy working environment although we acknowledged the view of the union leader.

FWF encourages the factory management to be aware of the mental health of the workers at the workplace so that proper counselling or therapy can be provided before the situation gets out of control.