The Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN) and the Honduran Independent Monitoring Team (EMIH) carry out joint research on the investment strategy and labour practices of Montreal-based T-shirt manufacturer Gildan Activewear. Research is also carried out by local groups in Mexico, El Salvador and Haiti.
The Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), the Honduran Independent Monitoring Team (EMIH), and the Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN) has released the second and final update on the verification of Canadian T-shirt manufacturer Gildan Activewear's compliance with a January 2005 agreement to give priority hiring opportunities to approximately 1,800 former employees of the company's Gildan El Progreso factory in Honduras. The update on Gildan's compliance with the January 2005 priority hiring agreement includes a series of recommendations to Gildan based on the El Progreso experience.
In January 2005 the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) and the Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN) reached an agreement with Gildan Activewear to remediate the mass termination of employees and closure of Gildan's El Progreso factory in September 2004. We can now provide an initial assessment concerning Gildan's adherence to the agreement. The results of our review are mixed.
When Canadian T-shirt manufacturer Gildan Activewear purchased Anvil Knitwear in May 2012, workers at Anvil’s unionized Star factory in El Progreso, Honduras were understandably worried about their job security. After all, Gildan was the same company that had closed a wholly-owned factory in El Progreso eight years earlier in order to avoid having to accept and negotiate with a union.
In February 2011, the Honduran Women's Collective (CODEMUH) filed a complaint with the Fair Labor Association (FLA) alleging that 57 workers at Honduran factories owned by Canadian t-shirt manufacturer Gildan Activewear had suffered debilitating injures due to long work shifts, the intense pace of production and high production targets.
Shortly after a new union was formed last September in Haiti's growing apparel manufacturing sector, six of the seven workers who serve on the union's executive committee were fired or forced to resign by the factories where they worked. But we're pleased to report that thanks to concerted efforts by Haitian and international labour rights groups, all but one of the workers have now been reinstated and are back at work.
The apparel industry was widely hailed in some circles as a vital economic opportunity for Haiti, particularly after the devastating earthquake which hit the country in January 2010. Although the creation of approximately 26,000 jobs in the country is certainly welcome, the full benefits of those jobs will only be felt if the workers have access to their legal rights, including the right to form unions and bargain collectively, and are paid a living wage.
Apparel brands with production in Honduras, including adidas Group, Nike Inc. and Gap Inc., released a joint letter sent to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "calling for the restoration of democracy in Honduras" following the June 28th military coup. The brands urged "an immediate resolution to the crisis" and asked that "civil liberties, including freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association be fully respected."
When Gildan Activewear announced the closure of two of its factories in the State of Coahuila in northern Mexico last March, workers had reason to be worried. But after a series of discussions with MSN and the local labour rights organization SEDEPAC, Gildan has set a precedent for workers who are used to being denied even their legal entitlements.