Over 1,000 Thai employees for a garment company connected to Victoria's Secret and other top fashion brands received an $8.3 million settlement this month, the largest-ever wage theft settlement for a single garment factory, a nonprofit group said.
The roughly 1,250 workers were laid off during the pandemic from supplier Brilliant Alliance Thai, which ultimately folded in March 2021 without offering severance pay. The factory agreed to dole out $8.3 million, a record-breaking settlement, according to the Solidarity Center, which advocates workers' rights.
“Low-wage garment workers left destitute by injustice meted out by global supply chains is nothing new,” David Welsh, the Thailand country director of the Solidarity Center, told the Associated Press. ”What’s new is they did not accept their fate — and won.”
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Victoria’s Secret agreed to help finance the settlement by providing a loan to the defunct supplier's owner, according to a recent Reuters report.
"Over several months, we had been in active communication with the factory owners to facilitate a resolution," Victoria’s Secret said in a statement obtained by the Hindustan Times. "We regret they were not ultimately in a position to conclude this matter on their own so to ensure the workers received their full severance amounts owed, Victoria's Secret agreed to advance the severance funds to the factory owners."
The factory produced lingerie and other clothing products for multiple top U.S. brands, such as Lane Bryant and Torrid. When the company folded during the pandemic, the laid-off workers did not receive severance pay as required under Thai law, per multiple reports.
Victoria's Secret appears to be the only major brand that contributed to the settlement, though it is not clear how much it contributed. The Washington Examiner reached out to the company for comment.
Thailand ordered Clover Group, the factory's owner, to pay severance within 30 days of letting the workers go, but it declined, arguing it had insufficient funds to pay them and asked to have 10 years to pay them back. For over a year, the workers fought back with help from the Triumph International Union.
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Advocates hope the victory will set a precedent for other workers.
"We want more brands to do the same because sadly this will not be the last of its kind — there will be many, many more cases," Welsh added.