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Tesco faces lawsuit from Thai factory workers

Sophie Smith
19 December 2022

Tesco is facing a UK lawsuit over "alleged negligence and unjust enrichment" from former workers at a factory in Thailand, a Guardian investigation has found.

130 former workers at VK Garment Factory in Mae Sot, who produced F&F garments, have claimed that they were trapped in "effective forced labour, working 99-hour weeks for illegally low pay in appalling conditions", among other allegations.

The newspaper highlighted that the workers made jeans, denim jackets and other F&F clothes for adults and children for the Thai branch of Tesco’s business between 2017 and 2020.

Tesco said the garments were sold only on the Thai market, though the Guardian said it has seen images of labels written in English on clothes understood to be made there.

Tesco was not involved in the day-to-day running of the factory beyond setting and checking standards and placing orders. However, workers in Tesco’s supply chain are seeking to hold the British supermarket chain to account for allegedly failing to protect them.

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.

A spokeswoman from Tesco, told The Guardian: “Protecting the rights of everyone working in our supply chain is absolutely essential to how we do business. In order to uphold our stringent human rights standards, we have a robust auditing process in place across our supply chain and the communities where we operate.

“Any risk of human rights abuses is completely unacceptable, but on the very rare occasions where they are identified, we take great care to ensure they are dealt with appropriately, and that workers have their human rights and freedoms respected.

“The allegations highlighted are incredibly serious, and had we identified issues like this at the time they took place, we would have ended our relationship with this supplier immediately.

“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.”

The Guardian has said that a claim has been issued in the high court and is expected to be served in the new year. Also facing legal action are Ek Chai, which had been the Thai branch of Tesco’s business, until it was sold to Charoen Pokphand Group in December 2020.

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