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Haiti: Levi's supplier tries to break union - action needed

Haiti Support Group | 15.06.2004 08:56 | Globalisation | Repression | World

Grupo M has fired 301 workers at the Codevi free trade zone at Ouanaminthe, Haiti. Dominican soldiers have been brought in to terrorise the workers. The management has threatened to close the factory down rather than negotiate with the union.

Since the beginning of June there has been a dramatic deterioration in the situation at the Codevi free trade zone in north-east Haiti. Following an international campaign in support of the 34 union members sacked in early March, negotiations in April led to an agreement between management and workers. By mid-May, all the sacked workers were back to work but, on 4 June, a breach of the May agreement led to a one-hour warning strike. The following day, the head of the Grupo M company arrived at the Codevi plant to tell workers that the plant would probably be shut down because of the continuing labour unrest. Then, in the afternoon, after another dispute had developed when management forcibly removed the t-shirts and ID badges of a group of women, the management called in the Dominican Army to expel workers from the free trade zone.

A full one-day strike then took place on Monday, 7 June. Workers agreed to return to work on 8 June despite the continuing presence of the Dominican Army because the management had agreed to negotiate with the union. However, when the workers showed up to work at 5:30am, they found that they were locked-out.

On 9 June, Grupo M announced to the media that it was abandoning production at the Codevi free trade zone and laying off all 700 workers because of what it described as "security reasons in the face of threats and violent actions by a group of activists called Batay Ouvriye."

By the end of the week, all production had resumed, half of the production units whad been closed down and 301 workers had been arbitrarily dismissed - including the coordinator and secretary of the SOKOWA union. Over the weekend, the company started advertising new jobs at its assembly plant in Santiago, the Dominican Republic.

The actions of the Grupo M company are scandalous violations of internationally recognised workers' rights, and immediate protests must be registered.

Please send email now. Either use the form at LabourStart:

or write your own emails to:
Fernando Capellan, CEO of Grupo M
telling him that Grupo M must immediately end the violence against workers;
that the Dominican Armed Forces must be immediately and permanently withdrawn from the Codevi FTZ;
that all management personnel found to have committed violent acts against workers must be disciplined;
that negotiations in good faith with SOKOWA and the Batay Ouvriye workers' organisation must begin;
that arbitrarily fired workers must be re-instated, and that threats to close the factory must cease.

Remind him of his obligation to respect workers’ rights under Haitian law, of the code of conduct of his client, Levi Strauss, and of the World Bank's loan conditions.

Please also write to:
Michael Kobori, Global Code of Conduct Director, Levi Strauss & Co.
asking Levi Strauss to insist that their contractor comply with internationally-recognised workers' rights, most especially the right to organise a union and bargain collectively. Furthermore, suggest that Levi’s should demand that the Haitian government give the SOKOWA union its legal registration, as required by law.

Remind him that Levi's has a responsibility to work with its supplier to resolve this matter in a way that brings it into compliance with accepted standards of freedom of association.



This email is forwarded as a service of the Haiti Support Group.

See the Haiti Support Group web site:

Solidarity with the Haitian people's struggle for justice, participatory democracy and equitable development, since 1992.

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