Cases in 2013
In 2010, seven female union organisers were fired at the Busana Prima Global factory in Bogor, resulting in a solidarity strike of 37 of their co-workers. The situation did not improve even after main buyer Jack Wolfskin and the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) repeatedly urged the factory to reinstate the workers and improve working conditions in the factory. CCC, the Fair Wear Foundation and main buyer Jack Wolfskin worked on skills training and a compensation package for the fired women.
In 2011, 22 workers at the Mölnlycke factory were dismissed after the management accused them of “striking illegally”. The Thai Industrial Relations Committee (IRC), which looks into labour conflicts in the country, investigated the incident and concluded that the workers had to be reemployed. The case went to court after the management refused to reinstate them. In 2013 the case was settled and an OECD complaint was filed to question the outcome once more.
In early 2013, garment workers at the MN Sweater factory near Dhaka realised they had not been paid what they were entitled to. When sixteen of them complained, they were tortured and fired by the factory's management. The Clean Clothes Campaign, together with the 3F union, has been working to achieve justice for the workers.
The PT Kizone factory in East Java closed in 2011 without paying 2,800 workers their legally required severance payments. Two companies that were buying garments from Kizone provided funds towards the total severance pay that was due. However, workers were still owed a remaining US $1.8 million. A lengthy campaign, driven by former Kizone workers and several international groups, resulted in Adidas reaching an agreement with the workers, which led to the payment of the remaining severance in June 2013, two years after the closure.
In late 2012 nearly 200 garment workers at the Kingsland factory in Phnom Penh were deprived of their severance pay after the factory abruptly closed its doors. To prevent the factory's assets being stripped (equipment being taken away and sold) they started a months-long vigil and protest camp in front of the factory. This resulted in a historic settlement with Walmart and H&M in March 2013.
Gokaldas Exports refused to pay an increased inflation correction fee to approximately 9,900 workers in six of their factories in Bangalore. The Clean Clothes Campaign and the Workers Rights Consortium contacted main buyers H&M and Adidas. They discussed the issue with Gokaldas, after which the so-called Dearness Allowance was paid to the workers, including back payment.
Since 2012, workers at SC Enterprises have faced ongoing intimidation due to their trade union activities. Conditions inside the factory are grim, with low wages, long working hours and forced underpaid overtime. Due to the high level of intimidation the Clean Clothes Campaign lost contact with the workers on the ground in 2013.
After firing 33 workers in 2007 and illegally dismissing eight union leaders in 2010, the E-Garment factory located just outside Phnom Penh engaged in several violent and unprovoked attacks on employees who were peacefully protesting against the company’s refusal to reinstate their colleagues. After lengthy protests, an agreement was signed ensuring the rights of workers to return to their jobs and for proper compensation.
In September 2013, a female worker was fired after fighting back against sexual harassment. The intimidation had started immediately after she began working in the Richa Global factory in Gurgaon, which was producing for Lidl. When other workers protested against her dismissal, 87 of them were fired too.
The Turkish union Deri-Is asked the Clean Clothes Campaign for support in a case of dismissal of four union members and intimidation of union members at the Ismaco factory. The Clean Clothes Campaign engaged with the Dutch owner and Italian buyers, and worked closely with Italian trade unions.
In October 2013 a fire broke out at Aswad Composite Mills, a fabric factory near the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, resulting in the death of seven people and leaving 50 injured. Just a week earlier, the factory had received a formal government notification stating that the building was unsafe for work. However, they continued to operate. The factory was producing fabric for H&M, Primark and Walmart, amongst others.
Inspections carried out in June 2013 revealed that the building of Liberty Fashion Wears in Dhaka was at risk of collapse, and the lives of 5,000 workers were at risk. Immediate evacuation of the workers and restoration of the building were necessary. After the failure of the owner to make the much-needed repairs, several brands pulled out of the factory.
After years of repression by the Bangladeshi government, the NGO registration of the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity was reinstated in August 2013. All of the many charges pressed against them have been dropped in the course of 2013 and 2014.
For over fifteen years workers at a factory near Lahore, Pakistan, have been fighting union-busting practices by the factory management. Among the tactics employed are the firing of union officials, legal cases against the union and refusal to comply with court orders for a union referendum.
In 2012 twelve garment workers and trade union activists of the Power Loom Mazdoor Union (PLMU) were charged with extortion and terrorism under the Pakistani Anti-Terrorist Act. Six of them were arrested and severely tortured. Although they have been released on bail, the trial against the twelve is still going on, with over 100 court hearings to date.
After workers of the Modelama factory in North India registered their union in December 2012, the management dismissed fourteen workers. The union's general secretary and two other workers were transferred to remote factories in retaliation for their work with the union. Although an initial agreement was reached to reinstate the workers, the company continues to harass the union. Buyers include Gap and Next.
A total of 286 workers died and dozens were injured when a fire destroyed the Ali Enterprises factory in Karachi on September 11, 2012. Throughout 2013 the Clean Clothes Campaign has been putting pressure on the main buying company KiK to pay long-term compensation to the victims and the families of the deceased.
In 2009 workers at the Bratex factory in Colombo went on strike. Their concerns over wages and freedom of association were not addressed by the management. Following the strike 31 union activists were dismissed without the required procedures. Throughout 2013 CCC has demanded that the Fair Labor Association and Fruit of the Loom ensure that Bratex will sign an agreement with the union on the reinstatement of the workers.
The collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka on 24 April 2013 cost the lives of 1,138 people and injured nearly 2,600 more, making it the deadliest garment-factory disaster ever. Since that terrible day, labour rights organisations have put continued pressured on international brands, employers’ organisations and governments to compensate the victims through the Rana Plaza Arrangement and to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord.
On November 24 2012 at least 112 workers died and hundreds were severely injured in yet another devastating fire at the nine-storey Tazreen Fashions factory located in Ashulia, Dhaka in Bangladesh. Tazreen Fashions in Dhaka produced garments for well-known brands including C&A, KiK, Walmart, Disney, Dickies and ENYCE.
6,000 workers were left jobless after three factories in Sri Lanka and two in Pakistan were closed. The sole owner of the five factories disappeared with all of the company’s assets. In March 2013 the Clean Clothes Campaign reached out to several European buyers.
In May 2013 the Wing Star Shoe factory, located in Kampong Speu province, west of the capital Phnom Penh collapsed. Two people died and 29 people were injured. The Clean Clothes Campaign contacted the main buyer, sportswear brand ASICS and worked together with the Worker Rights Consortium, Solidarity Center and the Community Legal Education Center to reach agreement on the compensation.
In August 2009 the Bangkok police issued arrest warrants against three union activists for their role in a peaceful demonstration against the dismissal of nearly 2,000 workers at the Body Fashion Thailand factory, a wholly owned subsidiary of Triumph International. The case went on for several years until it was finally resolved in 2013, when the accused were acquitted.
After the refusal of management to pay agreed-upon half-yearly salary increments, workers at the Palla & Co footwear factory in the Western province of Sri Lanka organised in a factory-level union. However, the management refused to engage in negotiations. Following subsequent workers’ protests, the factory management suspended fifteen union officials in November 2013 and dismissed 179 union members in December 2013.
Somyot, a Thai labour rights activist, human rights defender and magazine editor, has been in detention since April 2011 for the publication of two articles deemed insulting to the king. He was sentenced to eleven years imprisonment in January 2013, with an appeal still pending.
Smart Export Garment in Dhaka is yet another site in Bangladesh where a deadly fire took place in 2013. It took the life of eight young women, and severely injured 25 others. Among the global brands with production at the factory were Inditex, New Look, KiK, Scott & Fox and Solo Invest.
The 2011 layoffs at the Pinehurst factory in San Pedro Sula, producing for Adidas and Nike, were believed to be targeting trade union representatives. The Clean Clothes Campaign has been monitoring the situation throughout 2013 and has been mediating in contacts between the union and management. Recently, a collective agreement was reached.
In May 2013, a new manager of the SL Garment factory in Phnom Penh, who was also a shareholder and military general, deployed armed military police in the factory. Unionists who protested against this intimidation were fired, and legal cases were filed against them. In response to the conditions and dismissals, workers went on strike for nearly four months, with eventual negotiations resulting in an agreement in December 2013.