Tesco is facing a lawsuit over the conditions of the migrant workers who make F&F jeans

Tesco is facing a landmark lawsuit over allegations that migrant workers were forced to work 99-hour days for illegally low pay, making jeans for supermarket fashion giant F&F.

A group of 130 former employees of the VK Garment Factory in Thailand are suing Tesco and Intertek’s auditing specialists for “alleged negligence and wrongful enrichment”.

The allegations, first reported after a Guardian investigation, were made by workers who produced jeans, denim jackets and other F&F clothing for adults and children for the Thai branch of the Tesco business between 2017 and 2020.

Tesco completed the sale of its Thailand and Malaysia businesses in December 2020 for around £8 billion.

VK Garment Factory is located in Mae Sot, a city near the Myanmar border, which has developed a workforce of mostly Burmese migrant workers.

The employees have already filed a lawsuit in Thailand against the factory.

In the UK legal case, led by law firm Lee Day, migrants are allegedly paid a maximum wage of £4 a day, work seven days a week and are “trapped in a cycle of forced labour”.

The bosses controlled permissions for their migrant workers and housed them in poor conditions such as sleeping on cement floors with little or no privacy due to, allegedly, no locks, walls, or roofs.

Employees claim they had to work from 8am to 11pm Monday to Saturday, and on Sundays they were allowed to finish work at 5pm unless the orders meant they had to work longer.

The legal suit states that although both Tesco and Intertek have conducted audits at the plant, it has not been determined which illegal activities were reported to have taken place.

Tesco was not involved in the day-to-day running of the plant, but supply chain workers are bringing the case directly against the company.

A Tesco spokeswoman said: “Protecting the rights of everyone who works in our supply chain is absolutely essential to how we do business.

“In order to uphold our strict human rights standards, we have a robust vetting process in place across our supply chain and the communities in which we operate.

“Any risk of human rights violations is completely unacceptable, but in the very rare cases where we are identified, we take great care to ensure that it is dealt with appropriately, and that human rights and freedoms are respected.

“The allegations highlighted in this report are incredibly serious, and if we had identified issues like this at the time they occurred, we would have terminated our relationship with this supplier immediately.

“We understand that the Thai Labor Court has awarded damages to those involved, and we will continue to urge the supplier to compensate the employees for any wages they are owed.”

An Intertek spokesperson said: “As a responsible company, we take the matters raised very seriously.

“We also note that these matters are currently subject to both Thai and English legal proceedings and therefore we are unable to comment while these proceedings are ongoing.”

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