Español English French Kwéyol

Haiti Support Group : "Levi Strauss must press Grupo M to end violations of workers’rights in Haiti"

Haiti Support Group press release

Send to AlterPresse 30 June 2004

In letter sent today to Michael Kobori, director of global code of conduct
for the San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co., the Haiti Support Group
expressed its very grave concerns regarding the behaviour of Grupo M, at the Codevi
free trade zone in Haiti.

Grupo M, the Dominican company which has for many years supplied Levi Strauss
& Co, in August 2003 opened a new factory in neighbouring Haiti to assemble
Levi’s 505 and 555 jeans. In January 2004, the World Bank’s International
Finance Corporation agreed to lend Grupo M US$20million to help its venture in
Haiti - with the proviso that workers’ rights be respected.

Two to these rights, to organize and to bargain collectively, are - the Haiti
Support Group is very pleased to note - clearly enshrined as key employment
standards in Levi Strauss & Co.’s Global Sourcing and Operating Guidelines.
However information provided by a team of independent observers monitoring labour
relations at the Grupo M factory in Haiti since the beginning of May reveals
that workers have been badly treated. When they took collective action to
defend their rights at the beginning of June, Grupo M used mass firings to try and
break the workers’ union

In the June 30th letter to Levi Strauss & Co., Haiti Support Group director,
Charles Arthur referred to the independent monitors’ reports of "relentless
increases in daily production quotas", "intimidation, provocation, and
humiliation" of workers by the factory management, and the establishment of a "climate
of terror" on the factory floor.

When, in early June, the workers’ union, Sokowa, took strike action to defend
themselves, Grupo M responded by first calling in soldiers from the Dominican
Army to rough up and intimidate the workforce, and then proceeded to dismiss
over 350 workers - nearly half of the entire workforce !

Since then, the Haiti Support Group wrote, "We understand that Grupo M has
continued to fire workers from the plant assembling Levi’s jeans - a further 18
workers have been dismissed since the mass firing of June 11th. We are also
informed that Grupo M is still refusing to negotiate with the union, either
about remedying the abuses of recent weeks or about the introduction of new
working practices which workers are told to accept or be dismissed."

The Haiti Support Group is calling on the Levi Strauss company to exert the
appropriate pressure on its supplier, Grupo M, which is clearly not adhering to
its Global Sourcing and Operating Guidelines.

Grupo M runs extensive garment assembly operations in the Dominican Republic,
and Levi Strauss & Co. sources jeans from there, as well as from Haiti. The
Haiti Support Group notes that it is therefore relatively easy for Levi Strauss
& Co. to apply pressure on Grupo M, and concludes that the company’s
continued failure to do so is seriously damaging its international reputation.

30 June 2004

Contact : Charles Arthur director, the Haiti Support Group, London, UK.

email :