Thai garment workers earn $8.3m in back wages after layoffs

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NEW YORK (AP) — More than 1,250 Thai workers who sewed bras for Victoria’s Secret, Lane Bryant and Torrid brands — and who were laid off last year without their legally required severance pay — have received $281 million baht ($8.3 million) in compensation, according to labor rights groups Solidarity Center and the Worker Rights Consortium.

The compensation will be funded by Victoria’s Secret through a loan agreement with the workers’ former employer, and comes after a 13-month effort. The workers are represented by the Triumph International Union, which is affiliated with the Industrial Labor Confederation of Thailand.

Private equity firm Sycamore Partners, owner of the Lane Bryant and Torrid brands, did not contribute, according to the groups. Sycamore could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Solidarity Center said it was the largest settlement linked to wage theft at a garment factory.

After the Brilliant Alliance factory closed in March 2021, the Thai government ordered its owner, Hong Kong-based Clover Group, to pay severance pay within 30 days, according to labor rights groups. . Clover refused, telling the factory workers she had no money and they had to agree to wait 10 years to be paid in full.

The union then launched a campaign demanding their severance pay. The Worker Rights Consortium and the Solidarity Center worked with Victoria’s Secret and Sycamore, pressing for workers to be paid. After months of effort, including campaigning by the Clean Clothes Campaign and other nonprofit worker advocacy organizations, Clover agreed to pay the workers and Victoria’s Secret pledged to fund the payments, through a ready to Clover.

Last week, all the workers received their severance pay, plus more than $1 million in interest, in accordance with Thai law.

Victoria’s Secret said in a statement on Thursday that it was “unwavering in its commitment to doing the right thing” for workers whose livelihoods have been hit by the closure of the Brilliant Alliance Thailand factory.

“Although the workers affected by the closure were not our employees and our goods were not produced in the factory at the time of the closure, we are committed to ensuring that the owners of the factory fulfill their obligations to their workers,” Victoria’s Secret said.

David Welsh, national director of the Solidarity Center in Thailand, called the settlement a “great victory” for garment workers.

“Low-wage garment workers left destitute by the injustice inflicted by global supply chains is nothing new,” he said. “What’s new is that they didn’t accept their fate – and won.”

Welsh said he hopes the settlement becomes a model for the kind of national, government, international and brand involvement to resolve future cases where garment workers find themselves in an equally desperate situation.

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