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Honduras: Star management encourages threats of violence against union supporters

November 14, 2012

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.

According to a just-released investigative report by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), both Anvil and Gildan have not only failed to ease the fears of the Star workers, but some management personnel have actively encouraged non-union employees to spread rumours of an imminent closure and to blame the union for the threatened loss of employment.


Above: Members of the union at Gildan’s Star factory

The WRC investigation also found that “Star managers have failed to take any action against employees who have repeatedly harassed and sought to intimidate leaders and members of the factory’s union, including making threats of violence, and that Star managers have actively colluded with these employees in their anti-union actions.”

Threats of violence are not taken lightly in northern Honduras, whose principal city, San Pedro Sula, has the highest murder rate in the world.

The WRC investigation also found that “Star management has failed to provide accurate, timely information to the union about changes at the factory that impact on workers, in violation of its contractual and legal obligations.”

According to the WRC, management’s unwillingness to inform and consult with the union about changes being made in the workplace since Gildan’s purchase of the factory has further undermined the credibility of the union with the workers.

Gildan has responded in writing to the WRC report and recommendations, stating that it “is not aware of any evidence” that the anti-union threats and harassment were reported to management. However, Gildan does acknowledge that the Human Resources Manager and another employee who were allegedly involved in the anti-union activities are no longer working for the company.

Gildan has promised to implement a number of the WRC’s recommendations for corrective action, including communicating to the workers that it will continue to operate the Star facility and that it respects freedom of association and will deal with the union in good faith and in a constructive manner.

The company has also committed to address allegations of anti-union harassment and take necessary disciplinary measures where appropriate, and to respect provisions of the collective bargaining agreement, including the provision regarding proper notification of the union when changes are to be made in the factory.

 

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