Engelbert Strauss GmbH & Co. KG, FOND OF GmbH, Complaint 859

There is no discrimination in employment Payment of a living wage Reasonable hours of work Safe and healthy working conditions

The complainant sent an email to complain about working conditions at the factory. He/she filed a complaint related to the following issues:
1. Suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) is not distributed to workers, or is inadequate. Workers are wearing normal face masks while working with chemicals. There are no earplugs provided. Workers have to buy face masks themselves. PPE is only provided to workers when there is an audit at the factory.
2. Verbal abuse occurs when workers refuse to work overtime or apply for leave, including annual leave, or sick leave or pre-natal examination. Workers are threatened with losing their job if they do not work overtime or work on Sundays.
3. Management has not informed workers actively about relevant local legislation and its own policies and procedures. Employee handbooks are provided to workers but they are not able to fully understand its contents.
4. Discrimination: there is discrimination between management level and worker. When both a worker and a manager made a similar mistake, only the worker was dismissed (e.g; stealing shoes or fighting at the factory)
5. Leaves: It is very difficult for workers to apply for annual leave, sick leave or pre-natal/pregnancy examination. Workers need to go through 3 to 4 supervisors/managers to get a final approval. Forced annual leave: Workers are required to sign an agreement to take annual leave in the low season.
6. Forced overtime: Workers are forced to sign the overtime registration. They are scolded by line leaders/supervisors or threatened with dismissal if they do not.
7. Workers have to punch their time-record before 16:45 and then return to work without recording overtime which means they are not paid for the extra time worked. This issue occurred on a daily basis in 2019 in some departments. Workers have to stay at work after working time to finish their remaining work, re-work or clean up. From January 2020 up to now, this has not been an issue because it is currently the low season.

Overview of the complaint investigation

2020-04-08 Investigation

The Fair Wear member brands informed the factory about the complaint and the factory replied on 8 April by sharing their latest audit report and the following feedback:

1. Regarding PPE, sufficient PPE is provided by the company to each individual, and workers are regularly reminded to use them properly. The factory also wants to establish a disciplinary form for those who do not comply with the correct use of the PPE.

2. No feedback

3. All of the workers' rights are clearly stated in the factory's manual. In addition, a guide is shared several times a week throughout the factory area. Workers who do not understand the guide or the manual can meet with personnel and trade unions. Equally, they can go directly to the Board of Directors to complain and discuss issues.

4. In terms of discipline, the factory stated that there is no discrimination. Only sometimes on the occasion of the Lunar New Year, the factory does not discipline workers nor managers to make them lose their benefits after 1 year of hard work. This means that factory management is sometimes more lenient during this period. It is possible that this could lead to some misunderstanding; the factory will reconsider this issue.

5. Leaves:
- Procedures for taking leaves are clearly stated. Everyone has the right to take leave according to their wishes, they just need to fill out the form and submit it to the line assistant.
- Regarding the arrangement of annual leaves, sometimes in low season when there are few or no orders, the factory will arrange for workers to take some of their remaining annual leave. The factory will pay these leaves as required by national law.

6 and 7: Overtime work: Workers have the right to refuse over time work if they so choose. The misunderstanding here may be due to the way in which the managers communicate about over time hours. The factory will disseminate more specific information regarding this issue.

2020-05-11 Investigation

On 28 April 2020, the factory sent four documents including:
• Announcement on annual leave, private leave, and paid leave (dated 26 March 2018). In the announcement it was explained that the employee should send the leaving form to the HR office by 11:30 of the day before.
• Policies on Personal Protective Equipment, dated 15 March 2015.
• Procedures on Overtime work, dated 2 January 2019.
• The payroll of December 2019 for a production line (with 22 employees).

On 7 May 2020, the factory sent voice records relating to training/informing on BSCI and the factory's regulation and safety to workers.

All documents were correct and in line with the laws. However, at some factories, there is a discrepancy between the factory policies and information from workers' interviews. For those reasons, further investigation is needed.

2020-06-15 Investigation

The member brands, the factory and Fair Wear agreed that an onsite investigation should take place, in order to clarify some issues and to be able to talk to some workers.

The date for the visit has been set for 11 July.