The Central America Project was launched in collaboration with FLA Participating Companies – including adidas Group, Nike, Inc., and Gildan – to develop long-lasting mechanisms and tools to produce measurable improvements in workplace conditions in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
The project focused on the issues of discrimination, harassment and abuse, and freedom of association in the apparel assembly or maquila sector. Several civil society organizations and trade associations such as VESTEX (the apparel exporters association in Guatemala) and ministries of labor in the region participated in the project, which was funded by FLA with a grant from the U.S. State Department.
Together, stakeholders developed Guidelines for Good Practice in Hiring, Termination, Discipline, and Grievance Procedures to guard against discrimination and harassment, and abuse and promote respect for freedom of association. These guidelines – utilized by zone authorities, participating factories, Ministry of Labor personnel, and staff from the Participating Companies – helped to create awareness among factory management of the benefits of positive labor relations.
In addition, the project helped to create an understanding of the long-term benefits of providing resources and tools to a factory base close to the U.S. that has a demonstrable commitment to improved workplace conditions. As part of the project, an ombudsman was hired under an arrangement with the WRC to receive, process, investigate, and help remediate complaints brought forth by workers and others, particularly with regard to systematic barriers to freedom of association, such as blacklisting.
As a result of the project, FLA received additional requests from the Ministry of Labor and VESTEX to conduct training in Guatemala and from the free trade zone authority in the Dominican Republic.