June 26, 2012
MSN facilitates dialogue between our southern partners and international brands in order to push the brands to find solutions to systemic problems in their supplier factories.
Some 2011 highlights:
- Following an independent investigation of worker rights violations at Levi Strauss supplier factories in Aguascalientes, Mexico, Levi’s agreed to require that workers be paid for the half-hour period of their lunch breaks, a right commonly denied at Mexican factories, and to require that all workers receive copies of their collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which they had not been allowed to receive previously. The CBA was distributed to workers in February 2011. This commitment set an important precedent on freedom of association in Mexico, lifting the veil of secrecy on “employer protection contracts” signed by unrepresentative unions without the workers’ knowledge or consent. MSN also worked to secure a similar requirement in the new Fair Labor Association (FLA) Benchmarks requiring all suppliers to FLA member companies to distribute copies of CBAs to the affected workers.
- In August 2011, MSN surveyed leading apparel brands on steps they were taking to ensure respect for freedom of association in their Mexican supply factories, based upon proposals put forward by MSN in 2010. The results showed some progress in assuring workers receive access to collective bargaining and other agreements, as well as information on the unions that are authorized by state authorities to represent them – key steps in countering the presence of “employer protection contracts.” Results of the survey will provide the basis for more work on brand responsibilities on freedom of association in Mexico.
- Over the last two years, MSN has carried out research on Wal-Mart Mexico’s (Walmex’s) supply chain and social compliance program. In March 2011, MSN published an assessment of Walmex’s 2010 Social Responsibility report, which followed on an in-depth analysis of their 2009 report, published in December 2010. In May 2011, MSN organized a strategy meeting bringing together several Mexican partners to discuss possibilities for engaging with and/or pressuring Walmex. Groups participating in the meeting have since been monitoring both supply chain issues and employment practices in the company’s wholly-owned retail outlets.
- In January 2011, the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights and the Salvadoran women’s organization Mujeres Transformando published a report documenting a number of labour rights violations at an Ocean Sky factory, a Fair Labor Association (FLA) Participating Supplier which produces for several FLA-member brands. The FLA accepted the report as a third-party complaint and contracted COVERCO, the independent monitoring group of Guatemala, to carry out an investigation, which confirmed many of the violations. Since that investigation, MSN has followed up on the case with all three parties, monitoring progress on corrective action and pushing for sustainable solutions.
- In recent years, women’s groups in Central America and Mexico have been documenting and pressuring apparel companies to address the negative impacts of production practices, long work shifts and high productions targets on women workers’ health. They have also been providing advice and support to workers suffering chronic health problems and permanent disabilities as a result of these practices. In order to support this work, in 2010 MSN secured a commitment from Canadian T-shirt manufacturer Gildan Activewear to cooperate with an independent assessment of its health and safety program at its factories in Honduras. Unfortunately, as the final terms of reference were being drafted the company backed out of its commitment. In late 2010, the Honduran Women’s Collective (CODEMUH) filed formal complaints with the FLA against both Gildan Activewear and Hanesbrands. Throughout 2011, MSN lobbied the FLA to accept the complaints and undertake credible and transparent investigations. To date, only one of the two investigations has been completed and the corrective action plan is still under review.
- In 2010, the Dominican union federation FEDOTRAZONAS reported that Gildan Activewear was violating the rights of workers who were attempting to organize a union at the company’s textile mill in the Dominican Republic. They charged that Gildan management had brought in and negotiated a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with another union in order to keep out FEDOTRAZONAS. Throughout 2011, MSN worked closely with both the FLA and WRC to ensure that the workers’ associational rights were respected, dialoguing with the company at various stages through the verification and remediation process. The company has since accepted that FEDOTRAZONAS represents the workers and is in the process of negotiating a CBA with its affiliate.
- MSN worked with local activists in Haiti, as well as with international and Canadian allies, to demand the reinstatement of seven union leaders fired at three Haitian factories producing apparel for Gildan Activewear and Hanesbrands. Although the factories denied the firings were union-related, Haiti’s Better Work program carried out an investigation that confirmed that the leaders were “terminated based on their trade union affiliation” and recommended that they should be reinstated. By the end of 2011, some of the fired union leaders had been reinstated, and factory owners are currently negotiating with the union to resolve the remaining disputes.