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LONDON – UK fashion retailer Next has said the closure of a Turkish garment factory which left 104 workers without thousands of Euros in owed severance and other benefits “cannot reasonably be linked to Next.” In July 2021, Neo Trend garment factory in Istanbul, Turkey closed due to loss of orders during the pandemic. Labour group Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) said the factory owner had transferred all financial resources out of the country leaving workers with no avenue to access justice as per local labour law.

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As reported by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, according to workers, Next was the only buyer of Neo Trend ahead of its closure, and they are calling on Next to engage constructively with them and ensure they are paid what they are owed. Clean Clothes cited UN Guiding Principles which state that in cases of factory closures in countries with limited or no recourse to justice for workers, “buyers in supply chains have a duty to ensure that workers are not left without their legally owed severance and wages.”

Is this case taking the UN Guiding Principles a bit far? Can Next be blamed if a factory owner transfers monies out of the country or should more focus not be on prosecuting said owner?

More telling is Next’s response. The company issued a statement which said: “It is always our intention to work with our active supply base on any issues that come to our attention, involving relevant stakeholders where needed. We have had no business relationship with Neo Trend since 2020, after the factory took the initiative to cease trading with us; all monies owed by Next were paid on time and in full. Once they stopped taking our orders, any leverage we may have had ceased and the factory’s closure a year later cannot reasonably be linked to Next

“Next has never been the lead or majority customer at Neo Trend and was never the sole buyer at the factory. Despite this, we engaged with relevant parties for a considerable time on the matter during sometimes challenging circumstances and held conversations in good faith with various parties, including worker representatives, in an attempt to reach a resolution.”

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