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2 Nov 2020

Ilana Winterstein, Al Jazeera

Thailand: Global brands worth over $500bn accused of failing to compensate illegally underpaid garment workers in supply chains

“Global brands, global exploitation”, 02 November 2020

A small Thai factory … [was] the setting where 26 garment workers spent seven days a week earning well below the minimum wage of 310 baht ($10.15), making clothes for some of the world’s biggest companies: Disney, Starbucks, NBC Universal and Tesco.

The factory, referred to as Kanlayanee … was based in the Mae Sot region of Thailand, close to the border with Myanmar. The region is a well-known regulatory black hole where exploitation is rife and many garment factories operate uninspected, with sub-contracting a regular occurrence…

The workers in this factory were all from Myanmar…

Migrant garment workers are in precarious positions; often on short-term, low-paid contracts, they are extremely vulnerable to abuse of their right…

In October 2019, workers filed a complaint with the Ministry of Labour, demanding compensation for underpaid wages, unpaid holidays, unpaid overtime and severance pay … [the] court … ruled in favour of the workers, awarding them 3.48 million baht ($111,000). However… the workers have still not received anything.

This case exemplifies the problems with the global garment industry. Four of the factory’s clients – Disney, NBC Universal, Starbucks and Tesco – have a combined market value of $516bn, yet have failed to collectively find $111,000, to ensure these workers, who were exploited making their clothes and their profits, receive what they are legally owed.

The purchasing practices of brands pit factories against each other and make paying a living wage near impossible for factory owners. The prices brands pay mean corners are cut on safety; their failure in due diligence means union-busting …