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Workers locked out of Thai lingerie factory

16 March, 2021A Thai factory making lingerie for Victoria’s Secret, Triumph and other global brands has shut down without notice and locked out 1,388 workers, using the coronavirus pandemic as a pretext.

Lingerie factory Brilliant Alliance Thai Global shut down on 10 March without notice. Workers arrived for the nightshift and found the factory closed, with a notice on the factory gates announcing its permanent closure. They received no notice or redundancy payment, which is illegal under Thai labour law. Employers are legally required to give one month’s notice, and settle their financial commitments to the workers, including wages, severance pay, unpaid bonuses and unused annual leave.

Workers found the gates shut when they arrived for work

Brilliant, which is owned by the Hong Kong-based Clover Group, took over the factory from Body Fashion in 2019 in a transfer of undertakings. Brilliant failed to transfer employment conditions, indefinitely suspending the payment of bonuses, and paying only half the amount needed for medical cover.

The factory level union, which is affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union via the Confederation of Industrial Labour of Thailand, sought to meet with the management of Brilliant to address concerns about working conditions on a number of occasions, but meetings were delayed due to the pandemic.

In January 2021, union representatives met with the Hong Kong-based company owner via Zoom. They were told that there were not enough orders to keep the factory operational. On 3 March, company management informed the union that due to the cancellation of orders, the company could only continue to operate if there was a change to the collective agreement, with workers accepting a four-month furlough at 50 per cent of their salaries.

The union informed the labour department and the arbitration office, and a vote was taken. 88 per cent of workers voted to reject the company’s offer. However, the union remained open to negotiation, and had a meeting scheduled with management on 9 March. In the intervening period, trucks were seen removing material from the factory.

On 6 March, the company announced a four-day vacation. When workers arrived for work on 10 March, they found the factory locked, with a notice on the gate saying it had permanently shut down.

In a letter to Clover Group, IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches said:

“It is unacceptable that the company unilaterally and unfairly laid off workers without the legal notice of period and legal payments. The behaviour of the management clearly violates the Labour Laws in the country as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as workers’ compensation is a human right. It is clear that this violation also contradicts your customers’ codes of conduct, such as Victoria’s Secret, Torrid, Ascena Group and Triumph International.

“Therefore, we call on Clover Group International Limited to act in full accordance with national labour law and international core labour standards and to respect workers’ rights immediately by establishing a constructive dialogue with the union and by paying legal compensations of the unfairly dismissed workers.”