Protection contracts – the practice of official unions or corrupt lawyers negotiating a union contract without the knowledge of workers – is a common practice endorsed by some companies operating in Mexico in order to limit workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. These contracts tend to exist only on paper, and workers are typically not informed of the agreement and are unaware of their collective bargaining rights.
Issues: During a 2010 visit to a factory producing golf gloves for Acushnet Company in Thailand, FLA assessors found that members of the worker-elected Welfare Committee were more than two years past their legal limit of service. Additionally, most of the members were management-level staff. The factory employed 1,500 people.
On October 12, 2011, the Institute for Global Labour & Human Rights released a report alleging a number of noncompliances at the Style Avenue factory in El Salvador, including harassment or abuse and forced overtime. Two collegiate licensees registered with FLA – Outerstuff and College Kids – were sourcing from the factory at the time of this report. Outerstuff and College Kids commissioned FLA-accredited monitoring organization, GMIES, to investigate the allegations.
Following resolution of disputes with the workers union, which included the signing of a mutually agreed Collective Bargaining Agreement last February, Paxar is “looking forward to the good faith implementation of the collective bargaining agreement,” noted FLA President Auret van Heerden, following the signing of the agreement, adding, “We will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that the terms and conditions set out in the agreement are respected.
The United Nations Global Compact recently launched the Human Rights and Business Dilemma Forum, an initiative designed to stimulate constructive discussion about perceived dilemmas that socially responsible multinational companies may face in their efforts to respect and support human rights when operating in emerging economies.
Worth Reading — The New York Times reported on this recent study by Human Rights Watch concerning Walmart’s efforts to keep unions out of its stores. The human rights group, which the newspaper noted typically focuses on rights violations in Burundi, North Korea or other foreign countries, said that when Wal-Mart stores faced unionization drives, the company often broke the law by, for example, eavesdropping on workers, training surveillance cameras on them and firing those who favored unions.