Apple Tree, El Salvador

On August 8, 2015, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) accepted for review a Third Party Complaint filed by a representative of the union Sindicato Salvadoreño de Industrias Textiles y Similares (SSINT), a union undergoing the legal registration process as the time the complaint was filed. The complainant alleged that the factory Apple Tree El Salvador S.A. violated the right of freedom of association of a worker who was dismissed by the factory despite the worker enjoying fuero sindical protection provided by national law to workers who are founders of a labor union. 

Investigation and remediation of the allegations of violation of freedom of association raised by this Third Party Complaint turned out to be very complex.  The very critical issue of whether a violation of freedom of association occurred turned on the form that the employment termination took place: the affected worker and union representatives insisted that it was a dismissal motivated by anti-union discrimination, while factory management presented documentation supporting the position that the worker had resigned voluntarily and therefore there was no violation of freedom of association.  The worker initially challenged the authenticity of the signature on the resignation document, but in December 2016 she dropped the legal challenge, rendering the principal issue regarding freedom of association raised in the complaint moot. 

There are, however, some related findings from the investigator that call for immediate remediation by the factory and the brands.  In particular: (1) revision of factory’s policies and procedures regarding employment termination and freedom of association to ensure that they are consistent with national law, FLA benchmarks, and buyers’ codes of conduct; and (2) continuously train workers, supervisors, middle management and upper management regarding freedom of association.