Thai police screen ex-workers at former Tesco supplier over sweatshop claims

4 weeks ago 15

Thai constabulary and civilian servants person begun screening much than 100 erstwhile workers astatine a mill that supplied Tesco to find if they were victims of forced labour.

The Guardian revealed past week that Burmese workers who produced F&F jeans for Tesco successful Thailand had reported being trapped successful their work, enduring 99-hour weeks for illegally debased wage successful appalling conditions.

Thailand’s section of labour extortion and payment conducted interviews with erstwhile workers astatine VK Garment mill (VKG) connected Wednesday, alongside constabulary astatine an migration gathering successful Mae Sot. Police said the interviews were owed to proceed connected Thursday.

The determination follows a raid by Thai constabulary astatine the mill past week, little than 48 hours aft the Guardian published its archetypal nonfiction alleging sweatshop conditions.

Tesco faces a landmark suit successful the UK from 130 erstwhile VKG workers and a seven-year-old girl, who was raped successful accommodation wrong the mill compound portion her parent worked precocious making F+F clothes. They are suing Tesco for negligence and unjust enrichment and accidental they were paid arsenic small arsenic £3 a time to enactment until 11pm with conscionable 1 time disconnected a month.

The workers made F&F jeans and different apparel for the Thai subdivision of Tesco’s concern betwixt 2017 and 2020. Tesco, which had nary relation successful the day-to-day moving of the factory, said the allegations were “incredibly serious” and that it would person ended its narration with the supplier “immediately” if it had identified issues of the benignant astatine the time.

Oliver Holland, a solicitor starring the lawsuit astatine the instrumentality steadfast Leigh Day, said: “We are alert that the Thai authorities are contiguous investigating the VK Garments mill utilized by Tesco to marque F&F clothing, including interviewing implicit 100 of our clients to find retired whether forced labour was occurring astatine the factory.

“Our clients allege that they experienced issues specified arsenic retention of individuality documents, retention of wages, deficiency of state of movement, intimidation, threats, carnal and intersexual violence. These each autumn nether the International Labour Organization’s (“ILO”) indicators of Forced Labour.”

He added: “While it is affirmative that immoderate enactment is present being taken, we bash not judge that an probe conducted much than 2 years since our clients worked astatine the mill tin beryllium a thorough investigation. It is illustrative of the deficiency of extortion that is afforded to Burmese migrant workers successful Thailand, who find it astir intolerable to execute justness successful Thailand.”

The aforesaid workers person besides been seeking justness successful the Thai courts aft being dismissed from the mill successful 2020. They accidental they were dismissed aft they confronted the mill astir wage and conditions and asked to beryllium paid the minimum wage.

The Thai labour tribunal ruled successful September that they were lone entitled to severance wage and announcement wage but an entreaty was lodged successful December reiterating their lawsuit for the outgo of unpaid overtime, holidays and illegally debased wages.

Phyo Phyo Mar, a erstwhile enactment person astatine VKG, was 1 of 21 former workers who spoke to the Guardian astir conditions. She was interviewed by officials connected Wednesday but said the authorities’ attack to their lawsuit truthful acold did not capable her with assurance that the lawsuit could beryllium resolved utilizing the Thai justness system.

“I consciousness arsenic if they turned unsighted eyes to us,” she said, “because of this experience, I don’t person overmuch hope.”

Roisai Wongsuban, of the foundation Freedom Fund, which has been supporting the workers, said: “I americium gladsome to spot that the Thai authorities took enactment to surface for forced labour and trafficking victims. Irrespective of the case, the screening should person been conducted successful 2020, erstwhile workers filed the ailment and shared details of labour violations and quality rights maltreatment with the labour inspector.

A Tesco spokesperson said: “Protecting the rights of everyone moving successful our proviso concatenation is perfectly indispensable to however we bash business. In bid to uphold our stringent quality rights standards, we person a robust auditing process successful spot crossed our proviso concatenation and the communities wherever we operate.

“We recognize the Thai labour tribunal has awarded compensation to those involved, and we would proceed to impulse the supplier to reimburse employees for immoderate wages they’re owed.”

Sirikul Tatiyawongpaibul, the managing manager of VKG, did not remark connected the latest interviews but antecedently said thing amerciable had been recovered astatine the factory.

“We person provided harmless moving conditions to each employees,” she said. “We are regularly audited by autarkic auditors who are not affiliated with the institution to support bully moving conditions for our employees and arsenic required by law.”

Tatiyawongpaibul has disputed reports successful the Guardian astir her factory, calling them “hearsay”. She said the claims should beryllium presented successful tribunal and could not beryllium commented on, fixed the pending entreaty successful Thailand.