Takko Holding GmbH, Complaint 337

CONCERNING LABOUR STANDARDS
Safe and healthy working conditions
STATUS
Resolved
DATE
2018-02-21

FWF's complaints handler in Myanmar received a call from the complainant, who claimed that one of the supervisors forced the workers to stand under the sun in a form of punishment for not being able to complete their targets. According to the complainant, a new style started 15 days ago. At first, the workers were provided with patterns to make the pieces but later on, they had to use theirs hands as the patterns were removed. It makes the job more difficult so, they cannot complete the target.

On 20 February 2018, the supervisor forced the workers from line 1 to 6 (Note: It is around 200 workers as there are 38-40 workers per line) to stand under the sun in front of the building for 30 minutes as a punishment. It was very hot as it was around 13:00 and the temperature was 33 degrees Celsius. When the workers tried to stand under the shade, he yelled at them to get into the sun. In the morning meeting on 21 February, the supervisor intimidated the workers and stated that they deserved the punishment as they were unable to complete the target. He also threatened that if the workers complained about this to anyone, he would make them suffer. Moreover, in December 2017, he punished them in the same way because he thought they were talkative. At first, he compelled the leaders to stand under the sun and later on, forced the workers from line 1 to 6 to join them.

According to the complainant, the supervisor is new and only arrived 3 months ago. He uses interpreters to communicate to the workers. Among two supervisors of the building, he is more aggressive and abusive as he often scolds and yells at the workers. It was mentioned that and the complainant and his/her co-workers discussed to report this case to FWF. The complainant also sent a photo of them standing in the sun as evidence. Although the local supervisors and leaders know, they dare not interfere with the supervisor’s order. However, the complainant is not sure whether the HR office knows but she doubts that they would take action against him even if they did.

Findings and conclusions

On 21 February 2018, FWF's complaints handler in Myanmar received a complaint from a factory worker, who claimed that the supervisor forced the workers to stand in the sun as a form of punishment for not being able to complete their targets. The complainant included a photo of the workers standing in the sun as evidence. FWF declared the complaint admissible and informed Takko, the FWF member brand sourcing at this factory. Takko reached out the factory management, who at first claimed that the incident had actually been a meeting and not a form of punishment. During the subsequent offsite worker interviews and onsite investigation, all the workers confirmed they were made to stand in the sun as punishment for not meeting the targets and having a lot of repairs. They were not allowed to stand in the shade or sit down. Altogether it took about 30 minutes. All the workers felt dizzy, angry, and wanted to cry. The investigation team concluded that the action taken by the supervisor is both psychological and physical harassment at the workplace and is a strong violation of FWF's COLP. FWF discussed this with the factory management and the current supervisor. Both of them realised that this is entirely unacceptable and would not bring any positive working relationship in the future between the supervisor and the workers. In the presence of the investigation team, the workers were called for a meeting in the shade on the second day of the investigation. The supervisor said that he did it for the workers to meet the target, but he promised that he would never do it again. He also asked for their cooperation with him to work together in future to meet the target. The factory general manager added that punishing workers by making them stand in the sun is not acceptable and will not be supported by the factory. The workers were satisfied and promised that they would work to meet the target by cooperating with their supervisor. Another worker confirmed that the management and the supervisors treat the workers better and in a more flexible way after FWF investigation.

Overview of the complaint investigation

2018-02-27 Verification

FWF reached out to Takko, the FWF member brand sourcing at this factory. Takko asked the factory about the complaint. The factory denied the fact that the incident was a punishment but it claimed that it was a meeting to drive the workers to meet the target. Not only the workers were standing in the sun but also the Chinese supervisor. The factory replied that it was a false story with a wrong motive.

2018-03-13 Investigation

FWF conducted an offsite investigation with factory workers, followed by an onsite investigation with the workers from the respective lines. FWF invited the brand's representative to be part of the investigation team. The interviews were conducted in a private room and in a local language.

The investigation interviewed 59 workers who were asked to stand under the sun. All the workers confirmed that they were punished under the sun because they could not meet the target and had a lot of repairs. They were not allowed to stand under the shade although there are some trees, nor were they allowed to sit. Altogether, the punishment took about 30 minutes. All the workers felt dizzy, angry, and wanted to cry. There were several verbal announcement made by the supervisor beforehand that they would be standing under the sun if they did not meet the targets. The same incident happened two times before, under the same supervisor. It was also found out that there is enough space in the shade to accommodate the same number of workers for a proper meeting in the factory compound. Indeed, the local supervisors conducted a meeting with the same number of workers near their building after lunch time (which is around the same time) but on a different date. In that spot, there is enough shade for all the workers to sit and listen under.

2018-03-13 Conclusion of the investigation

The investigation team concluded that the action taken by the supervisor is both psychological and physical harassment at the workplace. It is a strong violation of FWF's COLP.

2018-03-13 Remediation

The investigation team decided that immediate remediation is needed because many workers are traumatised. FWF discussed this with the factory management and the current supervisor. Both of them realised that this is entirely unacceptable and would not bring any positive working relationship in the future between the supervisor and the workers. The investigation team suggested that the supervisor should explain to the workers that he understood now that this action was not appropriate and promise that he would never do it again. The management agreed to do so. In the presence of the investigation team, the workers were called for a meeting in the shade on the second day of the investigation. The supervisor said that he did it for the workers to meet the target, but he promised that he would never do it again. He also asked for their cooperation with him to work together in future to meet the target. The factory general manager added that punishing workers by making them stand in the sun is not acceptable and will not be supported by the factory. He promised to the workers again that this action will never happen again in the future. He encouraged that all workers can suggest what is bad or good to the factory and he welcomes all of their suggestion. The supervisor also promised that he would not shout at them if they ask him questions.

2018-03-13 Resolved

FWF asked the workers if they were satisfied and felt better, the workers laughed and replied that they were satisfied, if it never happens again. The workers also promised that they would work to meet the target by cooperating with their supervisor. Another worker stated that the management and the supervisors treat the workers better and in a more flexible way after the FWF investigation last week. They shared the Helpline number with each other and happily talked about the noticeably changed behaviour of the supervisors The workers now feel more secure and are relieved to have FWF in the factory. It seems that the understanding of the FWF complaint system is much improved and everyone, including the management, is aware of it.