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WELCOME TO THE ARCHIVE (1994-2014) OF THE MAQUILA SOLIDARITY NETWORK. For current information on our ongoing work on the living wage, women's labour rights, freedom of association, corporate accountability and Bangladesh fire and safety, please visit our new website, launched in October, 2015: www.maquilasolidarity.org

Engagement and Campaigning - 2013 Highlights

May 9, 2014

 

MSN works at the international level to identify and promote industry-wide solutions to systemic problems in global supply chains and to promote both voluntary and regulatory approaches to reverse the ”race to the bottom” on wages, working conditions and workers’ rights.

Some 2013 highlights:

 

  • Haiti’s minimum wage struggle

In collaboration with the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) and our Haitian partner Batay Ouvriye, MSN lobbied companies sourcing from Haiti to ensure that their suppliers in that country are paying the legal minimum wage. This followed on the release of an October report by the WRC, Stealing from the Poor: Wage Theft in Haitian Apparel Industry, documenting the failure of most Haitian garment manufacturers to pay the legal minimum wage. MSN coordinated Canadian and Quebec signatories (national unions and NGOs) to a joint letter addressed to apparel-producing companies asking them to take action to ensure compliance with minimum wage requirements. In response to lobbying by organizations in the US and Canada, two companies, Fruit of the Loom and Canada’s Gildan Activewear, made commitments to ensure that their suppliers in Haiti pay the legal minimum wage. MSN continues to monitor whether these companies make good on their commitments.

  • Accord on Fire and Building Safety

Following the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh in April, MSN worked with our allies in Canada and internationally to convince apparel brands and retailers whose apparel products were made in factories in the buiding to provide just compensation and to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangaldesh. At least partially as a result of our efforts, Canadian retailer Loblaw became the first Canadian company to sign the Accord and to commit to providing substantial compensation to the families of those who died and to those injured in the disaster. Loblaw is one of over 160 major brands around the world that have signed the Accord.

MSN is one of four labour rights NGOs that is a witness signatory to the Accord, along with the International Labour Rights Forum (ILRF), the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) and the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC). The NGOs act as an informal reference group, working closely with the Global Unions IndustriALL and UNI. MSN is also a member of the Accord's Worker Participation Working Group that has developed more detailed guidelines on how workers and unions can have an active role in the implementation of the Accord, including through democratically elected health and safety committees, health safety training programs, an anonymous worker complaint system, and the right of workers to refuse unsafe work.

At the request of the NGO reference group, MSN drafted a history of the Accord process which was published by MSN and CCC in July 2013.

 

  • Media Attention in Canada to Sweatshop Issue

The events in Bangladesh brought unprecedented public attention to the question of where our clothes are made and under what conditions, and put Canadian companies under greater scrutiny than they have been for a number of years. The Toronto Star published a series of feature articles on the global garment industry, raising key issues not only about unsafe factories in Bangladesh, but also about other systemic issues in global supply chains. The series also addressed issues in Canada, such as procurement policies of the Ontario and federal governments, as well as the licensing policies of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Hockey Canada. MSN provided advice and contacts for The Star and other media and was interviewed for a number of the articles and television and radio programs.

  • Lobbying and Campaigning for Compensation

In the last four months of 2013, MSN collaborated with international counterpart organizations - Clean Clothes Campaign, international Labor Rights Forum, and the Worker Rights Consortium - in lobbying companies whose products had been made in the Rana Plaza building to sign an agrement to create an the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund to provide long-term compensation to the victims of the Rana Plaza disaster. After the launch of the Fund was announced on December 23, MSN joined with these organizations in welcoming the agreement and urging other companies linked to Rana Plaza to also contribute to the Fund.

  • Visit of Kalpona Akter, Executive Director of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity, to Canada

In late November and early December, MSN joined with the Canadian union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) in co-sponsoring the visit to Canada of Kalpona Akter of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity. Kalpona spoke at union conventions, public meetings and other events in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City and Ottawa. She also met with members of Parliament, the labour funds, Loblaw, and representatives of international development, labour, worker rights, women's and South Asian community groups. Her tour received extensive media coverage.

Kalpona's tour was successful in broadening the number of Canadian organizations committed to taking action in solidarity with Bangladeshi workers and in pressuring Canadian companies to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and provide just compensation to the victims of the Tazreen factory fire and the Rana Plaza Building collapse.

As a first follow-up action to Kalpona's visit, in December, MSN initiated an Open Letter to six Canadian retailers urging them to sign the Accord. The letter was signed by 25 Canadian human rights, women's, faith, labour, teacher, student, international development, and community organization. The letter also received good media coverage.

 

 

Previous 2013 Highlights: Advocacy

 

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