Independent body the Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI) has concluded the workers at Türkiye supplier Neo Trend were “treated poorly”, however it said the evidence to hand and its interpretation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), did not lead it to “compel company member Next to deliver recompense”.
The ETI added that it has “recommended Next consider a good will gesture but stopped short of demanding this”.
Next had not responded to Just Style’s request for comment at the time of going to press.
The ETI explained there is “no disagreement that a number of workers were left unemployed after Neo Trend’s owner closed the company, stripped its assets and left workers without due severance, notice, and other allowances”.
It stated the employer had a responsibility to make right this breach of workers’ rights and in theory, should be held to account in local law.
However, it added that Neo Trend’s owner had absconded, and workers would face difficulties in pursuing recourse through legal means.
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Why ETI cleared Next from the dispute
Labour union alliance Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) members filed a complaint to ETI on behalf of Neo Trend’s former workers due to Next being an ETI member that had been sourcing from the company.
In response to ETI’s investigation of the complaint, Next provided evidence of orders received, and the full amounts paid for those orders.
ETI explained: “The evidence demonstrated a significant gap in time between the last order and when the company was closed. This was at the time of the onset of Covid which only served to complicate matters”.
ETI admitted it took time to determine and examine all the evidence available, however it concluded that in this case it was not possible to demonstrate that the action or inaction of Next had caused or directly contributed to the harm to workers, given the time factor and the actions taken by the company in line with government guidance due to Covid.
ETI pointed out that it has a robust process for complaints which is overseen by the ETI Board and in this case when appealed was considered by a committee comprising a trade union, NGO, and company member, chaired by its neutral board chair.
ETI said it agrees with Clean Clothes Campaign stating the affected workers deserve recompense for the harm done.
ETI explained: “The clear villain in this case is the owner of Neo Trend who knowingly closed the business without informing workers or paying what they were owed, even though the company had been paid for orders delivered”.
The former owner of Neo Trend could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.
ETI added that alongside many others it has been advocating for effective mandatory human rights due diligence legislation, to strengthen the ability to hold companies to account on the impact they have on human rights.
It pointed out laws already exist in Germany, Norway, and France, however the UK has fallen behind in providing support for companies already undertaking human rights due diligence and ensuring that this is the norm through the support of legal requirements.
ETI said it will continue to advocate for mandatory legal measures which align with the UNGPs, require effective stakeholder engagement, make specific considerations for people of heightened vulnerability, and include root cause analysis.