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Following a FWF audit in April 2017, FWF received a call from a supervisor of line 2. The complainant claimed to be targeted by the factory management in a discriminatory manner after receiving two warning letters, including for alleged theft of fabric. Other workers on this line also received this warning letter. The worker strongly denied the allegations. It should also be noted that the goods/fabrics in question had already been re-located. The complainant felt that the warning letters constituted retaliation from the factory because:
1. During the FWF audit, workers on this line revealed their actual age to the audit team, including one worker who was underage (under 18).
2. One worker on the line was slapped by the Chinese supervisor and complained during the audit to FWF staff.
A line leader complained about discrimination after receiving two warning letters, including one for theft of fabric. The warning letter was also given to other workers on the line. The worker felt he/she and his/her line were being targeted, partly because of other issues that happened in the line during a FWF audit at the factory, including a worker who claimed to have been slapped by a Chinese manager and workers who were transparent about their ages, which led to the discovery of an underage worker who had applied with a fake ID card. The issues were addressed as follows:
1. When the fabric was recovered, the warning letters were cancelled. The warning to the line leader was revised from 'fabric mishandling' to 'job incompetence' as factory management maintained that the leader should be disciplined for wrongdoing that resulted in the misplacement of the fabric. Due to everything that happened, the complainant decided to become a sewing operator rather than line leader. He/she claims to have less stress now and is fine to continue working in the factory.
2. There remained a difference in perception about the incident with the worker who claimed to have been slapped by the Chinese manager who, in turn, insisted it was a tap on the shoulder. No solid evidence was found to support either side’s claims. The manager apologised to the worker during the FWF audit.
3. No evidence was found that retaliation was taken against any workers on Line 2 for being open with the audit team. Factory management also did not to take any retaliatory action against the juvenile worker, but promises to follow the relevant legislation for the employment of young workers.
Factory management also indicated that it will improve HR procedures, including procedures for recruitment and disciplinary actions and will provide training for relevant staff.
The brands immediately took action and requested a response from the factory management. FWF followed up with the complainant to collect more information. A meeting was subsequently held between FWF and factory management on 3 May 2017 to discuss these issues.
There remained a difference in perception about what happened to the worker who was allegedly slapped. The worker indicated he/she was slapped (which was also echoed by some other workers who witnessed the incident), while the Chinese manager insisted it was a tap on the shoulder. No solid evidence was found to support either side’s claims. In any case, the manager apologised to the worker for what happened during the FWF audit. The factory management indicated that it would provide further training on physical contact with employees to avoid future incidents.
Factory management confirmed that the line leader and other workers were given warning letters for theft of fabric. When the fabric was discovered, the previous warnings were cancelled. The warning to the line leader was revised from 'fabric mishandling' to 'job incompetence', as factory management maintained that the leader needed to be disciplined for wrongdoing that resulted in the misplacement of the fabric. Based on this case, factory management indicated that it would review and improve its HR management.
Also, since the leader of Line 2 was reprimanded for something that line management was blamed for, an equal reprehension was to be given to the Chinese supervisor who was considered equally responsible for the incident. Furthermore, the factory promised to more clearly list and communicate what behaviour would result in disciplinary actions, and what types of violations will incur a verbal warning versus a written warning. Factory management also indicated that HR management will meet with the Line 2 leader to explain why he/she was given the warnings and that the warnings were not meant as a reprisal.
No evidence was found that retaliation had been taken against any workers in Line 2. Workers were not punished for being open with the audit team, which led to the discovery of an underage worker. Factory management understood that it should not to take any retaliatory action against the juvenile worker, but promised to follow the relevant legislation for the employment of young workers.
FWF followed up with the complainant, who indicated that the HR Department never followed up with him/her to explain about the warning letters. However, he/she is all right with that. Due to everything that happened, he/she decided to become a sewing operator rather than line leader. He/she has less stress now and is fine with continuing work at the factory.
Based on the above, the complaint has been resolved. The brands are advised to follow up with the factory management to improve HR procedures to avoid such cases from happening again in the future. In addition, it is advised that factory management participates in FWF's training on age verification.