When the Hermosa garment factory in El Salvador closed in May 2005, it left the workers with no jobs, severance pay, back pay, or health benefits. Labour rights groups in Europe, the US, and MSN in Canada pressured major brands to take responsibility for their supplier's irresponsible actions.
The closure announcement came shortly after the workers won the registration of a union. Hermosa management had a long history of worker rights violations, particularly concerning wages and social security contributions. After the factory closed, workers learned that the owner, Mr. Montalvo, had failed to pay US$353,000 in government social security and pension fund premiums, dating back to 1996.
Workers and the groups supporting them have exhausted all legal channels to pressure the factory owner and the Salvadoran authorities to act responsibly. They are asking allies to increase pressure on brands to resolve the case. Buyers at Hermosa have included adidas, Nike, Russell Athletic, Wal-Mart (White Stag), Kids Connection, and Speedo.
Many of them were willing to try to convince the factory owner to fulfill his legal obligations and to urge the Salvadoran government to enforce its laws and hold job fairs for ex-Hermosa workers. But they have been reluctant to directly compensate the workers, fearing it might set a precedent for similar cases in the future.
To date, workers have not received the compensation or job opportunities they deserve. MSN believes that the brands have a responsibility to ensure that workers receive their legal benefits and employment opportunities in other factories producing for these companies.
Estela Ramirez, ex-Hermosa worker
Credit: Christliche Initiative Romero
A new report prepared by the Maquila Solidarity Network for the Fair Labor Association (FLA) documents the desperate situation of former employees of the Hermosa Manufacturing facility in El Salvador, which closed in May 2005, leaving former Hermosa workers without jobs, back wages, severance pay, health insurance and employee pensions. MSN's report identifies next steps to rectify the injustices suffered by the Hermosa workers, and actions that buyers can take to prevent future "Hermosas".
Following the release of MSN’s report, MSN met with ex-Hermosa workers to discuss the findings. While they agreed with most of the study’s recommendations, workers had criticisms.
A short history of and background to the case, steps taken to date to engage with the buyers, the factory owner, and the Salvadoran authorities, and further resources on the Hermosa case.
(January 2007) A new fund set up by the Fair Labor Association provides some compensation to Hermosa workers, but critics say it’s not enough.