LK International AG (Kjus), Complaint 461

Payment of a living wage Reasonable hours of work Safe and healthy working conditions

The complainant had been working at the factory for 5 years. S/he learnt that the FWF team had visited the factory for an audit and distributed cards with the complaints phone number (June 2018). Therefore, s/he decided to call and inform FWF about the following problems:
1. Leave is rarely granted and almost all workers are facing this problem.
2. Overtime (OT) is compulsory. If workers are not willing to work overtime, they are threatened with being fired. They work overtime 2-4 hours on a regular basis.
3. When workers raise the above two issues, supervisors and managers use aggressive language and tell them to leave the factory if they do not want to work. The complainant said that "workers are tortured."
4. OT is paid double the hourly rate. However, OT is not recorded properly and workers receive less than what they should.
5. The last OT payments were made in February 2018. Since then, no OT payments have been made.
6. When workers ask about pending OT payment, they are told to leave the factory if they do not like to work.
7. There is only one toilet for men and two toilets for women. Considering the high number of workers, the number of toilets is insufficient.
8. There is no break and no time to go to the toilet.
9. Food in the canteen is not good.
10. Face scanning is done at 7:00 and at 15.30. However, no face scanning is done for overtime work. This means that overtime work is not recorded transparently.

Overview of the complaint investigation

2018-11-18 Investigation

FWF informed the brand about the case and asked them to contact the supplier. FWF also reviewed the response provided by the factory. Since it became difficult to draw conclusions from the response, the local auditor was requested to investigate. She conducted offsite interviews with workers on 18 November 2018.

The interviews brought to light the ten points raised in the initial claim.
Workers expressed their difficulty in taking either leave or time off for 1-2 hours: the procedure to request leave involves filling up a form provided by HR and then meeting with the Supervisor, Production Manager and General Manager (GM). The GM is very strict and would check the leave balance before deciding. There are times when leave is denied regardless of the worker's health conditions if there are orders to finish.

OT is not an usual practice but in last six months workers were asked to work overtime regularly. This is mostly at month-end or in the first week of the month during shipment and when there is a deadline to complete orders.

Sometimes, workers who work during the second shift are forced to continue working until the morning and they also have to work on other days for extra hours.

There is verbal abuse by both supervisors and managers when workers approach them to know about their due wages. Workers are often told that many jobless people are waiting at the gate and that they can leave if they are unhappy.

Face scanning is done at 7:00 and then at 15.30. However, no face scanning is done for overtime work. This means that overtime work is not recorded transparently. An OT slip is issued to the worker and signed by the HR and GM. The total hours of OT is not reflected in the OT slip and workers are not paid for the unrecorded hours of OT. When workers ask for OT payments, they are told that they will be paid next month but in the end they are not paid. Workers said that some OT slips are "thrown into the dustbin."

Workers feel scared to ask about pending OT payments.They are scolded harshly and they feel oppressed. Workers ask once or twice for their OT payments but to no avail so they keep quiet. Pending OT wages are not paid at all.

There are toilets for men and women in first floor. All women from the ground floor and second floor should go to the first floor to use the toilets. There is a long queue and workers have to wait for long. Workers do not use the toilets on the second floor as they are not clean.

There is only lunch break and no other break. Workers can only take a break during the second shifts.

Since there is a senior official in the canteen committee meetings, workers are hesitant to share their problems. The quality of food is not satisfactory except for Wednesdays and Saturdays. Since food, including beverages, is provided free of cost, workers are told to adjust to it.

Workers also expressed their unhappiness with respect to their annual increase which was INR 30 against INR 70 provided the previous year.

2018-12-10 Conclusion of the investigation

A FWF audit was conducted in June 2018. The audit report and the recent investigation on the complaint came to contradictory conclusions on a few issues.

In the audit report, there was no reference to excessive OT, unrecorded OT hours, nonpayments for OT, denied leave, verbal abuse and poor food quality. In the report, it was mentioned that there are six face scanning machines within the factory premises. The operational times of these machines did not show any overtime and seemed within normal limits. Since the complaint was received shortly after the audit, it is suspected that at the time of the audit workers were being monitored which influenced the truthfulness of their responses. The contradictions between the audit findings and the complaint investigation do not allow to come to a conclusion.

Additionally, it was mentioned in the report that there are no accessible toilets for women on the second floor of the sewing section and that there are no breaks.

2018-12-10 Remediation

FWF recommended the brand to carry out a partial audit in 2019 on labour standards. FWF believes that a congenial work environment favours workers and, in turn, would increase their productivity.

2019-12-27 Verification

Since the audit report and the complaint investigation report came up with contradictory findings it was suggested that a partial audit is conducted in this factory in 2019. However the audit did not happen in 2019 but was planned for early 2020. Meanwhile the brand was bought by a US based company which is not a fair wear brand. In the light of new development a follow up on the situation in this factory cannot be done.

2020-02-12 Closed

This complaint is considered closed since verification is no longer possible.