K.O.I. International b.v., Complaint 323

Safe and healthy working conditions Legally binding employment relationship

The complainant claimed that working conditions were unfavorable. The complainant claimed that there were health and safety issues, a high turnover of workers and the impossibility to obtain tenure. More specifically, the complainant stated that:
- There is a huge turnover of staff
- Contracts are limited to the duration of 1-3 months.
- During the low season, workers are asked to stay at home. Almost every month, there are days when they only work 4 hours per day.
- Personal Protective Equipment is not provided.
- There are 4 toilets for 400 workers. They are not well maintained and dusty. Workers can only access the toilet through a badge system.
- During summer, it gets very hot in the factory, which limits the ability of workers to work and be productive.
- There is a trade union in the factory, but it is not very active.

Findings and conclusions

On 12 March 2017, a worker complained that the working conditions at a factory different than their own workplace were very unfavourable, with health and safety issues, high worker turnover, and the lack of long-term contracts.

The case is under investigation.

Overview of the complaint investigation

2017-12-07 Investigation

Fair Wear informed KOI, the member brand sourcing at this factory, about the case. KOI contacted the supplier and asked for a reply which is reflected below.

Factory management informed KOI that:
- The factory had a monthly worker turnover of 5%. Between April 2016 and March 2017, the factory had witnessed a drop of the average number of workers with 163;
- The factory gives one-month renewable contracts to the workers;
- When the factory did not have sufficient orders, workers became ‘technically unemployed’. Management did not have to fire the employees, but with approval of the legal authorities, they were able to reduce working hours and to pay workers 60% of the workers’ gross wage;
- The factory provides Personal Protective Equipment, but 60% of the workers do not use it.
- The factory has 1 toilet per 7 employees.
- After a humidity assessment report was finalised, the factory would take appropriate action.
- UGTT is the trade union in the factory.

On 7 and 8 December, the local Fair Wear team performed an audit.

2017-12-07 Remediation

FWF recommended KOI to actively follow up on the outcomes of the audit. Particulalry, KOI should:
- Assess its own production planning and analyse how it effects order placement at the subcontractor. KOI should discuss with the main supplier and the subcontractor how it can ensure a stable order flow to prevent lay-off of workers, short term contracts, a high worker turnover and reduction of working hours.
- Assist the factory in ensuring that workers receive training on health and safety and the use of Personal Protective Equipment.
- Work with the factory to improve health and safety conditions in the factory, especially concerning the toilets and use of chemicals.
- Set up a timeline to improve other points raised in the audit report and CAP.

2017-12-11 Conclusion of the investigation

During the audit, most of the issues raised were proven. In 2016, the factory had a worker turnover of about 20%. About 50% of the workers have a permanent contract, while the other 50% receive one-month renewable contracts. After four years, they are only hired when there are sufficient orders. The majority of interviewed workers confirmed that they do not want to use Personal Protective Equipment. Toilets are not available in a sufficient number. A lot of workers complained about the heat in the summer. The FWF audit team found that workers were asked to work fewer hours than their contractual hours during low season. This only happened 3-4 times where workers worked about 2 hours less per day.

The audit team also found that the factory provides a safe environment for all the workers. Management was very cooperative and willing to improve the points raised. In relation to the specific points raised, the Tunisian Labour Code (TLC) stipulates the following:
- In case of seasonal work, contracts of 1-3 months are allowed. Furthermore, when a worker has received temporary contracts for four years, the worker is entitled to a permanent contract after four years.
- Although the garment industry is not considered seasonal work, it has become a standing practice in Tunisia that garment factories offer 1-3 months contracts to workers.
- In case of economic reasons, the factory is allowed to reduce working hours or to end contracts when the factory has obtained the approval of the labour inspection (Art. 21-10 TLC). In case of fix-term contracts, the employer has to pay the remaining months of the contract in case he wishes to end the contract (art. 24TLC). No additional damages will have to be paid.
- In case of permanent contracts, the employer should offer damages based on the number of years employed. Depending on whether the dismissal was wrongful or not, the worker is entitled to damages between 1 month and 3 years. In case of temporary lay-offs or reduced working hours, the employer needs to pay at least 50% of the gross wage. The period should not exceed one month.
- The law does not stipulate anything concerning heat, only that the employer has to guarantee adequate conditions and a good working environment. (art. 152-2).

Fair Wear has setup a Corrective Action Plan that the factory and KOI need to follow up.

2018-08-06 Remediation

K.O.I have followed up on the CAP findings with the factory management. The following remediation activities took place:
1. Production planning: This is a continuous and ongoing topic of discussion between Kings Of Indigo and factory management. Those issues will be discussed during the brand's visit in the upcoming months.
2. Training on Health&Safety
- Election and selection of the consultative committee and Health & Safety was reactivated. The meetings are registered and organised as per local law;
- The factory implemented a formal management system elaborated by the QHSE Group to detect problems and remediate working condition with all responsible, consultative committee and trade union;
- A Fair Wear WEP training was conducted in February 2018.
3. Improvements in Health & Safety - toilets and chemicals
- Company committee ordered 12 spray cabins equipped with a curtain of the water system, which was installed in January 2019;
- The number of toilets has been increased up to 28 female and 10 male toilets. The maintenance of the toilets has improved;
- Second containment is installed in all areas where chemicals are used. The facility builds an adequate mixture of chemicals system;
- The MSDS of all chemicals on site is translated into the local language and easily accessible to the workers now. The chemical hazards are more effectively communicated to all workers.

Several pictures and documents were provided as evidence of the above-mentioned improvements.

As the next step, FWF proposes to K.O.I to schedule an audit to verify the remediation activities.

2020-05-05 Verification

To verify the remediation activities a Fair Wear audit was scheduled by KOI in May, but it was unfortunately cancelled due to the fact that KOI ended their business relationship with this supplier. Because the complainant was no longer working at this factory, Fair Wear contacted another worker (a member of a trade union) working at this factory on May 5. The worker has confirmed the implementation of new toilets and canteen and instalment of new cabins with water curtains. The worker could not confirm whether the H&S Committee is active. According to this feedback, PPE is not provided and most of the workers with short-term contracts had to leave the factory. The factory is having financial difficulties and is currently closed due to the Covid-19 lockdown and the labour inspector is aware of the company's situation.

2020-05-06 Closed

This complaint has been closed.