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Tesco and Intertek face legal action following employee claims of unlawful and uncomfortable working conditions

An F&F fashion factory in Thailand is alleged to have forced Burmese migrants to work up to 99 hours a week on illegal wages and under forced labour conditions. The letter before action has been written by over 130 past and present migrant workers working at the garment factory. In the letter, allegations of long hours, less than minimum wage pay, and wage deductions are raised as concerns. Tesco and Intertek lawyers continue to deny liability.

Reports of long hours and inadequate conditions

“We did not get a lunch break, we had 1 spoon of rice. We continued working.”

– An anonymous employee recalls facing long hours and no lunch breaks

The workers notified the two companies of the allegations through a formal letter of claim. As the first step in any legal proceeding, the employees documented their allegations in writing. In the letter, it is reported that employees are being paid £4 a day, significantly lower than the average daily minimum wage for Thailand, ranging from 328 baht (US$8.59) at its lowest to 354 baht (US$9.27) at its highest (LINK).

They also claim that bosses control their worker permissions and house them in substandard conditions. These conditions include living in tiny dormitories and sleeping on cement floors, with no privacy due to a lack of windows, walls and ceilings.

The pressure to fulfil large orders at the factory has also been reported as intense and inhumane. The findings suggest workers are unable to take regular breaks, and are expected to work into the night in hazardous and unventilated conditions. As outlined in the letter, many workers have reported suffering from personal injuries, with one employee reportedly taken to hospital to be rehydrated by drip.

Discussing his experience working at the company, one anonymous employee commented:

“I was employed as a Quality Controller. We had to check 100-150 shirts per day. Sometimes we had to check 500 shirts per day if the orders were large. They would force us to work overnight to achieve these targets. During these times, we finished at 5am, we would then come back at 12pm to carry on working. We did not get a lunch break, we had 1 spoon of rice. We continued working.”

Past allegations

  • A similar complaint was filed with the Thai Department of Labor Protection and Welfare (DLPW) in 2020.
  • In the complaint, the workers reported a loss of £765,000 in overtime pay, severance pay, and holiday pay over two years.
  • On the basis of an Intertek audit, the DPLW refused to order the factory to pay back most workers’ wages.
  • The severance pay was only paid.

Tesco and Intertek’s response

Both companies have since denied all existing and past allegations. According to Tesco’s lawyers, the company does not accept any arguable claims, noting that under Thai law Tesco has no duty to protect claimants. Similarly, Intertek Plc have denied any liability, adding that the company conducted audits under industry standards and by auditors pre-approved by Tesco.

Leigh Day, a London and Manchester-based law firm, is working alongside the employees to navigate legal proceedings against the companies. If the worker’s claims are left unresolved, the case will progress to the High Court.

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