A photo of a Victoria's Secret store

Victoria’s Secret has paid $8.3 million to over 1,250 Thai garment workers, who have been fighting for stolen wages for over a year.

The Brilliant Alliance factory in Samut Prakan had been supplying bras to brands Victoria’s Secret, Lane Bryant, and Torrid. When the factory closed in March 2021, owners Glover Group refused to pay workers their legal severance.

The Triumph International Union is part of the Confederation of Industrial Labour of Thailand. They began campaigning for their members’ rights and full pay. The Workers’ Rights Consortium (WRC) and Solidarity Center in Thailand applied pressure on the brands, along with the campaign #PayYourWorkers.

Clover Group has now committed to paying workers their wages, plus over a million dollars in interest, in keeping with Thai law. Victoria’s Secret has offered a loan to Clover Group so they can pay.

“This is a huge victory for the workers and a testament to the courage of their union and the strength of the international solidarity campaign that supported them,” said David Welsh, Thailand country director of the Solidarity Center.

“Low-wage garment workers left destitute by injustice meted out by global supply chains is nothing new. What’s new is they did not accept their fate—and won. We also hope this represents a model for the type of domestic, governmental, international and brand engagement to resolve future cases where garment workers are left in similarly desperate straits.”

After it chose to close the factory last year, Clover said it had no money to pay its workers. Despite this, the Thai government said that it must pay severance within 30 days of the closure. But Clover told workers they should wait up to 10 years.

Wage theft – or the refusal to pay workers earned wages – has exploded in the garment industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. A large number of global brands have cancelled orders as lockdowns have reduced demand. This has left factories unable or unwilling to pay workers for clothes they have already made.

WRC estimates that apparel suppliers have stolen between £360 to 620 million in wages during the pandemic. Loretta Gracetto, assistant Editor at Truthout, called this “one of the largest transfers of wealth from the Global South to the West in recent history.”

Scott Nova, Executive Director at WRC, says, “our organisation has documented hundreds of cases of wage theft in the apparel supply chain. This was the largest theft—and now the most back pay—we’ve ever seen at an individual garment factory. The $8.3 million provided by Victoria’s Secret is also the most any brand has ever contributed to help resolve a wage theft case.”

Recently, workers in the Karnataka state of India won $28.6 million in stolen wages. The Garment and Textile Workers Union fought several exporters that supply brands such as H&M, Marks and Spencers, Tesco, Nike, Uniqlo, and many more.

WRC and Solidarity Center also engaged with Sycamore Partners, the parent of Lane Brant and Torrid, who also purchased from the factory. Unlike Victoria’s Secret, Sycamore made no effort to help workers get their pay.

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Image credit: WestportWiki – Creative Commons