More than a thousand sacked Thai garment workers who made bras for a factory supplying lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret have received a landmark $8.3 million settlement, rights activists said on Saturday workers.
Brilliant Alliance Thai closed its factory in Samut Prakan in March 2021 after going bankrupt.
But the 1,250 laid off workers – many of whom had worked at the plant for more than a decade – did not receive severance pay mandated by Thai law.
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The factory also produced underwear for major US brands Lane Bryant and Torrid, owned by Sycamore Partners, but only Victoria’s Secret contributed to the settlement through a loan agreement with the owners of the factory.
Victoria’s Secret confirmed in a press release that an agreement had been reached, but without mentioning the amount involved.
“For several months, we have been in active communication with the owners of the plant to facilitate a resolution,” the company said.
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“We regret that they were ultimately unable to complete this deal on their own. To ensure the workers receive their full severance packages, Victoria’s Secret has agreed to advance severance packages departure to the owners of the factory,” he added.
Sycamore Partners did not respond to an AFP request for comment.
The deal is the largest ever wage theft deal at a one-man garment factory, international workers’ rights group Solidarity Center said.
“I think this is extremely unprecedented and represents a new model – the scale of the compensation and interest paid on it…as well as the direct brand engagement,” the national director of the company told AFP. Solidarity Center Thailand, David Welsh.
“It eliminates the fiction that multinational brands are passive investors,” he said.
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“We want more brands to do the same, because unfortunately this won’t be the last of its kind – there will be many, many more cases.”
Over the past year, sacked workers and Thai union representatives have demonstrated outside Government House in Bangkok demanding their wages.
Prasit Prasopsuk, president of the Industrial Labor Confederation of Thailand, said some protesting workers had been charged with criminal offenses including breaking public assembly rules during the pandemic.
A Worker Rights Consortium report from April last year said it had documented similar cases of wage theft at 31 garment factories in nine countries.
Worker Rights Consortium executive director Scott Nova said the cases were just the “tip of the iceberg” and that the problem of wage theft in the garment industry had exploded during the pandemic as clothing orders were dwindling.
He estimated that garment workers around the world owed $500 million as a result of factory closures and unpaid severance pay.
Some workers at the Samut Prakan factory received the equivalent of more than four years’ salary last week, he said.
“It’s like the equivalent of a worker’s life savings…and it’s just stolen. What it means to lose that and get it back is hard to capture in words,” Nova said. .
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