- Fashion retailer Asos intervened last month when a Mauritius-based supplier cut off electricity, water and a food allowance to a dormitory of 151 majority migrant workers. The retailer became aware of the situation after the Dhaka Tribune reported on the workers' plight and the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), a global research group with offices in New York and London, contacted Asos and John Lewis and Partners after determining them as customers of the factory.
- In a letter to the BHRRC, dated August 13, Asos Sourcing Director Simon Platts wrote the company worked with the local government to restore basic necessities to the workers' living conditions after the Tex Knits factory went into liquidation on July 19. The workers had not been paid for months before the liquidation, according to reporting form the Dhaka Tribune. Working with a local labor union and the Mauritian government, Asos facilitated worker wage payouts for June. Wages up to July 19 should be paid by the end of August, wrote Platts.;
- "We were, and remain, deeply concerned about the situation and took immediate steps to begin remediating the issues raised," wrote Platts. "While the situation on the ground is improving, there remains some way to go to ensure workers are protected," he continued.
Asos' response demonstrates a growing understanding among retailers who operate with deep and diverse global supply chains. Resolving supplier issues, particularly regarding labor and human rights, requires involving multiple local authorities in what is often called a "jurisdictional approach."
Asos had been working with the supplier in question since 2014 as a subcontractor of another supplier, Tex Services. Part of the reason fashion supply chains in particular mask such human rights issues so well is these chains can reach up to 10 tiers deep or more.
In the case of Tex Knits, as with many industries employing mainly migrant workers, lodging was provided by the factory. However, such workers in Mauritius, and in many garment-producing countries, generally have a visa tied to their work which cannot be transferred to another employer. If a factory goes out of business, they lose legal immigration status, even if wages are still due to them, according to the letter.
Platts's letter outlines that Asos's intervention, with the help of BHRCC, IndustriALL Global Union and CTSP, the local trade union, was necessary on multiple fronts — ensuring the factory paid the wages it owed to workers, and seeing the government paid due severance to Mauritian workers, who receive more government protection than the 83 migrants.
Reporting from the Dhaka Tribune indicated the workers had met with local authorities several times before Asos's intervention, with authorities stating the wages would be paid, but they did not receive any additional payment until Asos intervened.
According to the letter from Platts, Asos continues to monitor the situation.