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Freedom of Association Violations at Petralex in Honduras

Publication date: 
Friday, April 24, 2015

Between November 2014 and March 2015, the Petralex factory in Villanueva, Honduras, illegally fired or forced the resignations of at least 19 garment workers, including nine SITRAPETRALEX union leaders, and 10 union affiliates or relatives of union leaders, according to an independent investigation conducted by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) in April of 2015.

Through interviews with union leaders, factory management, government officials, and more than 30 workers, along with a rigorous review of factory and union documentation, FLA investigators concluded that the factory used unjustified claims of “personnel readjustment” or “restructuring” to carry out anti-union firings.  Investigators found no evidence of actual readjustments or restructuring in the departments affected by the firings.  They also found that factory management used offers of extra severance pay as a way to coerce workers the company wanted to dismiss to sign voluntary resignations instead.

Ultimately, investigators found that the systematic use of these tactics to carry out worker terminations has over time “served as a means for management to disguise anti-union animus.”  The firings at Petralex follow a pattern of anti-union terminations dating to the summer of 2006, when Petralex fired all members of a Provisional Union Board established to bring a union to the factory; and to June of 2007, when Petralex fired all candidates for leadership of the new union that was still coming into existence.  At the time, these terminations were described as “personnel restructuring” as well.

The FLA investigation reveals that the current labor environment in the factory discourages workers from fully exercising their right to freedom of association, while the firings deprive workers of the leaders they need for their union to carry out its activities.  The Petralex firings constitute a violation of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras, the Honduran Labor Code, ILO Conventions 87 and 98, and FLA’s Workplace Code of Conduct and Benchmarks.  Find recommendations for remediation for Petralex and all FLA affiliates sourcing from the factory -- Box Seat Clothing, Dallas Cowboys Merchandising Ltd., Gear for Sports Inc. (including Under Armour under a licensee agreement), Outerstuff (an adidas Group licensee), and VF Corporation -- in the full report below.  

UPDATE, JULY 2015:  Based on the recommendations contained in the initial investigation report, the FLA and the  Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) developed a joint remediation plan, which was agreed to by the factory on May 6. As of May 25, workers illegally fired had been reinstated, and as of June 22, Petralex management had agreed to make payments for wages workers lost during their dismissal.  May 6.  The full details of the remediation plan are available below in the final report.

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