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16 May 2022

Labour Behind the Label

Turkey: 100+ workers from NEXT supplier Neo Trend owed thousands after COVID-19 factory closure

“Workers from Turkish NEXT supplier Neo Trend owed thousands after pandemic factory closure", 16 May 2022

...Neo Trend Textile closed officially on 1 July 2021 due to loss of orders in the pandemic. The factory had put workers on suspended leave in Spring 2020, and workers had been told that they would be paid for this leave as per government regulations. Workers were protected from being dismissed during this period because the Turkish government had introduced a ban on dismissals for the duration of the covid-19 lockdown. However, after the final order for buyer Next had been completed by a small group of workers towards the end of August 2020, the factory owner started emptying out the factory and selling all factory assets. When workers returned to work at the end of the lockdown in July 2021, the 104 workers of Neo Trend found the factory closed and were left empty-handed without their due severance, notice and other allowances.

The factory owner has transferred all financial resources out of the company and left the country, meaning workers have no access to justice via the courts in Turkey. Neo Trend workers have tried to get support from Next, which according to worker testimonies was the only buyer, since the fall of 2021. While Next representatives attended a meeting with a union that was supportive of the workers, this did not result in any concrete outcome. A group of workers... have... established a formal Worker Committee to represent themselves. At this time, 30 workers are participating, and it is these workers whom the CCC network is seeking remedy for, although it is possible that more may come forward in due course. Unfortunately, Next has refused to engage with the worker committee. The company has merely offered their support if “the workers choose to pursue a legal avenue as per local labour law”, which is highly unlikely to result in any payment to the workers for the aforementioned reasons.

It is clear to us that in cases of factory closure in countries with limited or no recourse to justice for workers, buyers in supply chains have a duty to ensure that workers are not left without their legally owed severance and wages, as outlined in the UNGPs. As the rights situation in any given country is clear to brands when making sourcing choices, the much-reduced risk that brands enjoy the vast majority of the time, needs to be offset by a responsible approach taken when the liability for workers’ rights isn’t picked up by suppliers. Factory closures are a case in point, where the disappearance of employers doesn’t remove the duty on companies further up the supply chain to ensure that workers are dismissed legally with the full amounts owed under the law. We are requesting that NEXT, as the main buyer, engage constructively to ensure the sum that is owed to these workers is transferred to them.