Expresso Fashion B.V., Complaint 325

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining Legally binding employment relationship

A group of factory workers complained that production targets for the units are set too high. They also made the following claims:
- They were forced to work during breaks and do overtime
- Due to deductions, workers are being paid less than the legal minimum wage
- No transport is provided for workers who have to work overtime
- OT premium is not paid in accordance with legal requirements

On 21 July 2017, eight factory workers were allegedly dismissed for no proper reason. This happened right after the workers had held a meeting in the lunch hall to discuss their problems and demands. Because factory management reacted negatively to the meeting and the workers' demands, the workers got in touch with the trade union. According to the complainants, the atmosphere in the factory has been 'oppressive', because, for instance, management has been threatening workers with termination if they organize themselves in a union.

The workers also asserted that:
- The FWF worker information sheet was removed right after the audit;
- On 31 July 2017, 31 workers were dismissed after refusing to share their e-state gate passwords. One more worker was dismissed two days later.

Apart from the dismissals, the other issues were also addressed during a recent FWF audit, except for overtime payment. Expresso Fashion will prioritize follow up on the issues from the audit, including getting clarity on the overtime payment.

Overview of the complaint investigation

2017-08-03 Investigation

On 3 August, FWF interviewed the workers and trade union representatives and had planned to interview factory management that same day, which unfortunately did not happen.
During the meeting, the workers provided more details about the events in the factory that had occurred since 20 July and presented documentary evidence. The group shared several other concerns regarding the working conditions in the factory. Details of the interviews and the meeting were included in a separate investigative report that was shared with the parties involved.

2017-09-15 Investigation

Meetings took place on 15 and 16 September, during which the owner and management of Meris shared their views on the case. Worker representatives also had an opportunity to talk to the management. A separate follow-up investigative report was written and shared with the parties involved.

2017-12-20 Conclusion of the investigation

In light of the information received, FWF concludes that workers and management have opposing views on the dismissal of the 40 workers. Workers stated that they were clearly told to leave the factory and not come in to work. Factory management stated that they fired four individuals but the rest left on their own. The group of workers, however, argued that they did not feel free to return to work, as they were told to leave and were not given an opportunity to discuss the problems they had been facing.
Since the beginning of the investigation, eight workers have negotiated a solution individually. The rest of the concerned group is currently not working at the factory.
Court cases for those workers are still pending, with the next sessions scheduled for January and February.
Those involved proposed that open dialogue take place between the two parties, but there is no agreement on whether the trade union should be present.
Aside from the conflict about the dismissals, FWF has concluded that workers do not feel free to join a union.

2017-12-20 Remediation

Considering the above, the FWF member and its supplier should take steps to ensure working conditions are not in violation of the FWF Code of Labour Practices.
Workers should be free to organise and workers who want to be reinstated should be given the opportunity to negotiate (with support of the trade union) the conditions under which they can come back.