Here are a selection of examples of how the Worker Rights Consortium’s reports have motivated companies to bring about change. By getting your university to join the WRC, you can be part of these significant changes.
In September 2011 NGOs claimed that Gildan, one of the largest garment suppliers to UK universities, sacked six of its workers in Haiti for trying to form a union. It didn’t last long - the Worker Rights Consortium went straight in and undertook an investigation. They showed how this action defied Haitian law, international law and universities’ codes of conduct.
In January this year, Gildan re-hired all but one of its sacked workers. But the case isn’t over until all workers are re-hired and all are given back-pay for unfair dismissal. The Worker Rights Consortium is working to ensure that this happens.
In 2011, 4000 workers lost their jobs when their factory in Cambodia burned down. June Textiles refused to give compensation pay to the workers for the loss of their livelihoods. The Worker Rights Consortium wrote a report that triggered arbitration hearings. In July, the company backed down and agreed to pay compensation.
Fruit of the Loom
In November 2008, Fruit of the Loom’s subsidiary Russell Athletic sacked 1800 workers in their Honduran garment factory after the attempted formation of a union. Universities and students’ unions who bought from Fruit of the Loom were already members of the Worker Rights Consortium. The WRC went in to the factories and their report exposed harassment and abuse of workers and union leaders at the factory.
On the request of the factory workers, this triggered the biggest ever garment boycott in world history. After more than a year of campaigning by People & Planet in the UK and USAS in the US, Russell Athletic backed down. They now allow trade unions to operate in all their Honduran factories.
People & Planet played a key role in this. We’ve now seen how effective WRC membership can be in bringing about industry-wide change.
Our victory over Fruit of the Loom shook the whole industry. Garment companies the world over less able to cheat workers of legitimately owed money without consequences.
However, not long after that victory, in July 2010, a Nike supplier closed down one of their factories. They refused to pay the $1.5million of redundancy pay that was owed to workers at the factory. That could have meant thousands of workers’ families going hungry.
Thankfully, there were universities affiliated to the WRC who bought from Nike. The WRC went in and exposed Nike for their malpractice. They asked Nike’s workers what they’d like us to do, and the workers requested a boycott.
After months of campaigning by American students, the simple threat of a UK boycott was enough. Within weeks of hearing that People & Planet were considering taking action against them, Nike backed down and paid their workers the severence pay they were due. This goes to show just how much difference information from the WRC can make.
New Era Cap
Way back in 2001, workers at New Era Cap in Buffalo, USA, went out on strike over new quotas and unfair conditions. The Worker Rights Consortium wrote a report that brought international attention on the company. Universities cancelled contracts and lobbied New Era to resolve the dispute.
After 11 months of strike action and considerable pressure, New Era conceded the workers’ demands. This would not have been possible without the solidarity of people across the USA and Canada. We need to bring that spirit to Britain.