Tesco's F&F label caught up in Thai working conditions lawsuit - report
Tesco is facing a UK lawsuit from Burmese former workers at a factory in Thailand that has implications for other UK-based businesses where supply chain abuses have been uncovered at factories they didn’t own.
Some 130 of the migrant workers claim they were forced to work publishing hours for illegally low pay making jeans for the supermarket’s F&F brand to be sold in Thailand.
They’ve already pursued a claim in Thailand against third-party supplier VK Garment Factory where they worked, and are suing Tesco and auditing specialist Intertek for “alleged negligence and unjust enrichment” at the factory, which was a supplier to the company used between 2017 and 2020.
The allegations were reported by The Guardian but the British retail giant’s spokeswoman insisted human rights matter to the company and that it has a robust auditing process in place across its supply chain. It also said it acts when abuses are identified and that had it identified the alleged issues at the time they took place, would have ended its relationship with the supplier immediately.
The spokeswoman added: “We understand the Thai Labour Court has awarded compensation to those involved, and we would continue to urge the supplier to reimburse employees for any wages they’re owed.”
And an Intertek spokesman also said that the case is currently the subject of Thai and English legal proceedings, “and therefore we are not able to comment while these proceedings are ongoing.”
VK Garment Factory is in a city near the Myanmar border and its workforce mainly comprises Burmese migrant workers.
The UK legal case claims the workers were paid a few pounds daily, worked seven days a week and were “trapped in a cycle of forced labour”, among other allegations.
The lawsuit claims that despite Tesco and Intertek carrying out audits, they didn’t identify any unlawful activities, but should have been aware that the area is known for exploitation of workers.
Tesco wasn’t involved in the running of the factory and The Guardian said it’s believed to be the first time a British business has faced such litigation in a UK court over a foreign garment factory it doesn’t own. It’s also the first time a social auditor has been named in such a lawsuit.
That will make it a case that's closely watched by other businesses usign suppliers abroad.
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