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Bangladesh: H&M and Inditex supplier accused of union busting amid COVID-19 after dismissal of 3,000 garment workers; Incl. company responses

In June 2020, 3,000 garment workers were reportedly dismissed as part of a union busting exercise amid COVID-19 from Saybolt, Tanaz Fashion and Windy Wet & Dry Process factories in Gazipur, Bangladesh, which belong to the Windy Group. Windy Group owns eight factories in total and, according to media reports and workers, supplies to H&M and Zara (Inditex). 

The unions for the Windy Group workers claim that each time workers from the three factories have attempted to form unions, they have been dismissed. Amirul Haque Amin, President of the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) in Bangladesh, said: “Targeting three factories out of eight of Windy Group and retrenching 3000 workers of these three factories is purposeful and similar to destruction of union."

The dismissed workers have been staging hunger strikes and other protests at Windy Group factory premises to call for reinstatement. 

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited H&M and Inditex to respond to allegations of union busting at Windy Group involving the dismissal of 3,000 garment workers from Windy Group factories. The responses are included below.

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Item
5 August 2020

Inditex statement in response to BHRRC report on freedom of association during COVID-19

Author: Inditex

... In regards to the report shared by BHRRC, we would like to highlight the Inditex commitment with the promotion of social dialogue and the proactive approach that our company is playing in terms of facilitating dialogue and agreements between worker representatives and factory management, always ensuring the respect of the rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining... beyond the legal local requirements. This has been the situation in those cases highlighted by BHRRC in Myanmar where Inditex carried out a mediation role, like in the case of Huabo Times, Rui-Ning and Myanmode, where agreements and in consequence resolution... were possible... and... Inditex maintained a proactive dialogue with suppliers but also with local unions and workers...

We would like to remark also the joint efforts taken under ACT initiative... formed by Inditex along with other 20 international Brands and IndustriALL Global Union, to facilitate social dialogue... in Myanmar... which was materialized in the agreement of the Myanmar Freedom of Association (FOA) Guideline...

[For the cases in] Bangladesh... we would like to remark the value of social dialogue between worker representatives and management as it was expressed in the 3 cases where we were informed about agreements and in consequence dispute resolutions achieved thanks to the role of Windy Group and the IndustriALL affiliate Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation and ... eight leading Union Federations... and the registered Union Garments Sromik Kormochari Federation... In these three agreements, we were informed about the compliance with the respective payment of the agreed compensations, which were made effective to affected workers as per dates mentioned in our previous communication with BHRRC...

[The full statement is attached and is in response to BHRRC's report on union busting and unfair dismissals of garment workers during COVID-19]

Download the full document here

Company response
+ 日本語 - Hide
30 July 2020

Inditex回答

Author: Inditex

[日本語翻訳記事提供: 経済人コー円卓会議日本委員会]

...Windy Groupの工場SAYBOLT TEX LTDについて、Covid-19パンデミックの経済的影響により、グループが工場を閉鎖したとの通知を受けました。それを受け、Windy Groupは、インダストリ・オール・グローバル・ユニオンの関連組織であるSommilito Garments Sramik Federation(バングラデシュ ダッカの労働者クラブ)、および、SAYBOLT TEX LTDの登録組合であるSommilito Garments Sramikとの社会的対話を開始し、2020年5月31日に労働者との合意に達しました。労働者は、それぞれの合意と現地の労働法に沿って、2020年6月4日にデジタル決済にて補償されました。

Windy GroupによるWindy Wet and Dry Process Ltd.の閉鎖についても、Covid-19の経済的影響による閉鎖であると通知されています。これを受けて、Windy Groupと登録された労働組合であるGSKF(Union Garments Sromik Kormochari Federation)との間で社会的対話を実施し、2020年6月3日に合意形成されました。補償金は、6月3日と4日に、それぞれの合意および現地の労働法に従って、デジタル支払いによって労働者に支払われました。

Tanaz Fashionについても、Covid-19の経済的影響により工場を縮小したとの通知を受けています。これは、バングラディシュ労働法2006(Bangladesh Labour Act 2006)に従い、6月1日に決定されました。2020年6月2日、バングラディシュ縫製製造業者および輸出業者協会のオフィスで、工場経営者と8つの主要な連合~その中の2つはインダストリ・オール・グローバル・ユニオンの加盟組織(Bangladesh Jatio Sromik Kormochari Porishodと衣料労働者連合)~の間で、労働者の保証とそれぞれへの支払い方法に関する覚書が交わされました。労働者は6月3日にこの報酬を受け取りました...

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Company response
14 July 2020

Inditex response

Author: Inditex

...Regarding Windy Group’s factory SAYBOLT TEX LTD, we have been informed that the Group closed the factory due to the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, Windy Group initiated social dialogue with the IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation and SAYBOLT TEX LTD’s registered union Sommilito Garments Sramik and came to an agreement for workers on 31st May 2020. Workers were compensated according to the respective agreement and in line with local labour law on 4th June 2020 through digital payment. 

Regarding Windy Group’s closure of the factory Windy Wet vs Windy Wet and Dry Process Ltd. (Unit-2), we have likewise been informed that the closure was due to the economic impact of Covid-19. As a result an agreement was made on 3rd June 2020 following social dialogue between Windy Group and the registered Union Garments Sromik Kormochari Federation (GSKF). Compensation was paid to workers in accordance with the respective agreement and in line with local labour law on 3rd and 4th June through digital payment.

Regarding Tanaz Fashion, we have been informed that the factory downsized also as a result of the economic effects of COVID-19. This was decided on 1st June in accordance with Bangladesh Labour Act 2006. A Memorandum of Understanding was agreed on 2nd June 2020 at Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association office between factory management and eight leading Union Federations, among them, two IndustriALL Global Union affiliates (Bangladesh Jatio Sromik Kormochari Porishod and United Federation of Garments Workers) regarding worker compensation and the respective payment method. Workers received this compensation on 3rd June...

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Company response
13 July 2020

H&M response

Author: H&M

The current drop in customer demand that fashion brands and buyers are experiencing as a result of COVID-19, has resulted in downturn in business for many suppliers. The downturn in business for Windy Group has resulted in retrenchment of workers in some of the supplier´s factories that produce for, among others, H&M Group. 

H&M Group products are being produced in Tanaz Fashion and in Windy Wet & Dry Process, not in Saybolt Tex. All workers affected by the retrenchment in Tanaz Fashion and Windy Wet & Dry Process have been compensated in accordance with national legislation and agreements with trade unions.

In Tanaz Fashion, a tripartite agreement between trade unions, the employer association BGMEA and the government, has been reached.

In Windy Wet & Dry Process, an agreement has been reached between trade unions and the factory management.

Company response
+ 日本語 - Hide
13 July 2020

H&M回答

Author: H&M

[日本語翻訳記事提供: 経済人コー円卓会議日本委員会]

Covid-19の影響を受けてファッションブランドとバイヤーが直面している、現在の顧客需要の低下は、多くのサプライヤーにビジネスの衰退をもたらしました。Windy Groupのビジネスの低迷の影響を受けて、特にH&Mグループ向けに生産を行ってきたサプライヤー工場の一部で、労働者の削減が行われました。

H&Mグループの製品は、Saybolt Texではなく、Tanaz Fashion and in Windy Wet &とDry Processで生産されています。Tanaz Fashion とWindy Wet & Dry Processの縮小の影響を受けたすべての労働者は、各国の法律と労働組合との合意に従って補償されています。

Tanaz Fashionでは、労働組合、雇用者団体であるBGMEA、政府の間で三者協定が結ばれました。

Windy Wet & Dry Processでは、労働組合と工場経営者の間で合意に達しました。

Article
23 June 2020

H&M, Zara supplier accused of union-busting

Author: Apparel Insider

[Subscription required]

23 June 2020

Eight factories belonging to the Windy Group, which supplies to H&M and Zara, have been accused of sacking 3,000 workers as part of a union busting exercise. Garment workers sacked from Windy Group factories Saybolt Tex, Windy Wet & Dry Process and Tanaz Fashions have been staging hunger strikes and other protests at Windy Group factory premises...

There have been frequent accusations from labour rights groups in recent months that factory owners are using the coronavirus pandemic as a means by which to bust unions.

The unions for the Windy Group workers claim that each time workers from the three factories have attempted to form unions, they have been dismissed. They claim 1,600 workers were fired from Saybolt. 1,200 from Tanaz Fashion and 200 from Windy Wet & Dry Process.

Amirul Haque Amin, president, National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) in Bangladesh, said: “Targeting three factories out of eight of Windy Group and retrenching 3000 workers of these three factories is purposeful and similar to destruction of union. “Note that retrenched three thousand workers were not also paid fully according to law and agreement done by the management. Nominally the compensation was given to the workers...

NGWF, Bangladesh Revolutionary Garment Workers Federation, and Akota Garment Workers Federation recently staged a symbolic hunger strike to call for the reinstatement of the 3,000 dismissed workers.

Read the full post here

Article
22 June 2020

Bangladesh: Garment workers stage hunger strike for reinstatement of 3000 retrenched workers

Author: Clean Clothes Campaign

22 June

According to reports from the CCC network, garment workers have held a symbolic hunger strike calling for the reinstatement of 3000 retrenched workers of the Windy Group, which supplies H&M and ZARA, and against union busting. Three thousand workers have been retrenched among eight factories under the Windy Group, such as from the Saybolt Tex Ltd, Windy Wet & Dry Process Ltd and Tanaz Fashions Ltd. The National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) made clear that the retrenchment has been done intentionally and with the purpose of busting workers' union and union forming process. For example, when workers from Saybolt Tex Ltd tried to bring back union activities, all 1600 workers were retrenched by management. At Windy Wet & Dry Process Ltd., 200 workers were dismissed after submitting the union papers for registration to the Labour Ministry. At Tanaz Fashion Ltd., 1200 workers were dismissed after starting to unite in order to form a union. NGWF also points out that the 300 workers were not also paid fully according to law and agreement with management. In response to these actions, representatives of garment workers' from the three mentioned factories organised a hunger strike, yesterday, in front of National Press Club.

Read the full post here