Esprit signs union agreement to boost worker rights

brett mathews | 7th August 2018

HONG KONG – Global fashion retailer Esprit has signed a global framework agreement with IndustriALL Global Union to boost rights for workers in its supply chains. The agreement covers 525,000 workers at more than 1,100 suppliers making textile, footwear and apparel products for Esprit in 27 countries. It covers issues such as freedom of association and collective bargaining and will see IndustriALL and Esprit collaborate to set up mechanisms to make it easier for local trade unions to negotiate detailed collective agreements with all suppliers to Esprit.

Under the agreement, IndustriALL and Esprit will collaborate to ensure fundamental International Labour Organisatiom (ILO) standards are applied by their contractors, subcontractors and principle suppliers, including the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work as well as many other ILO Conventions and internationally recognised standards.

IndustriALL’s general secretary, Valter Sanches, said: “This is a big step forward for Esprit and for half a million people working in their global supply chain. Esprit recognises that the best way to empower garment and textile workers is to create an environment where they are free to join a trade union and bargain collectively, while being protected by the highest international labour standards. We look forward to working with our affiliates and using this global agreement to help improve workers’ rights.”

Lary Brown, VP head of global social compliance and sustainability at Esprit said: “Esprit is excited about this collaboration. The Esprit Supplier Code of Conduct has always included freedom of association. This agreement will give us new tools to uphold this commitment in a meaningful way.”

Esprit has already partnered with IndustriALL as a member of the ACT (Action, Collaboration, Transformation) Initiative, which aims to implement a living wage in garment manufacturing regions by enabling industry collective bargaining in major producing countries.

It is also on the Steering Committee of the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, set up by IndustriALL and UNI Global Union to improve garment factory conditions after the Rana Plaza factory disaster in 2013.

Esprit, which is headquartered in Germany and Hong Kong sells clothing, footwear, accessories and homeware in 41 countries. All its products are made by suppliers with the majority of production carried out in Bangladesh and China. There is also sizeable production in Turkey, Vietnam, India and Pakistan.

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