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September 30, 2007

FFI: (Gap, Armani, Guess)
Garment factory continues to sue its critics.

CCC and ICN campaigners face two years imprisonment if found guilty under Indian penal code of "cyber crime", "acts of racist and xenophobic nature", and "criminal defamation" for speaking out on labour rights violations at an Indian garment producer. The organisations and seven of its staff members were first summoned to appear in court on 25 June 2007. The City Court of Bangalore has issued an arrest warrant in order to ensure the defendants presence at the next hearing. This legal action follows a series of legal threats and actions by jeans producer Fibre & Fabrics International and its 100% subsidiary Jeans Knits Pvt. Ltd (FFI/JKPL) in Bangalore, where labour rights organisations have pointed to labour rights violations since the end of 2005. FFI/JKPL, refusing to enter into dialogue with these labour rights organisations, have instead filed complaints of slander at the local court. Since July
2006, the local labour rights organisations are banned from speaking out about labour rights violations in the company's production facilities. The injunction order was prolonged in February 2007 and since that time the case is still dragging on.

The CCC and ICN are concerned that these legal actions are setting a bad
precedent and more suppliers may try to use legal means to prevent
labour rights and campaigning organisations to report on abuses in the
garment industry. This would definitely lessen the effectiveness of
efforts to improve the ethical behaviour of companies. International
labour rights organisations sharing this concern, such as the Maquila
Solidarity Network (http://en.maquilasolidarity.org/en/node/645#1 ),
Sweat Free Communities (http://www.sweatfree.org/statement_CCC ),
Business Human Rights and CSR Asia
(http://www.csr-asia.com/upload/csrasiaweeklyvol3week33.pdf, pages
9-11), have expressed their support to the CCC and ICN.

FFI/JKPL continue to refuse constructive dialogue

On 25 June 2007, FFI/JKPL issued a media statement in which they called
upon "all organizations involved to stop with their false accusations
and engage in a constructive dialogue with FFI/JKPL to jointly build on
the social and sustainable development of the textile and garment
industry in India." The CCC and ICN responded by writing FFI/JKPL that
they welcomed an invitation to dialogue. The invitation has to be
extended formally however, so that the local labour rights organizations
can legally accept it. Otherwise, any statement by GATWU c.s. could be
construed as evidence for violating the restraining order that is
imposed on them. For a dialogue in good faith it is necessary to get the
ban on public speaking out of the way, therefore requiring FFI/JKPL to
withdraw the complaint at the basis of the temporary restraining order.
Also, FFI/JKPL was called upon to agree with an independent observer
accepted by all parties who could help in this process. On 13 August
2007 FFI replied by saying that they have no faith in a constructive
dialogue unless CCC and ICN quit their 'false and baseless campaign'.
Clearly they are not intending to withdraw the complaints they filed
with the court against the Indian organisations. The CCC and ICN have
always stated that once FFI/JKPL agrees to participate in a mediated
dialogue with local stakeholders, the CCC and ICN will report positively
through the websites and publications.

SA8000 certification of FFI/JKPL production units suspended

Social Accountability International (SAI), responsible for the SA8000
standard on labour conditions, has confirmed to the CCC and ICN that its
statement issued on 30 April 2007 is applicable to FFI/JKPL. This
statement declares the suspension of SA8000 certification essential when
companies have obtained "a legal injunction prohibiting discussion of
the company's internal operations by stakeholders"
In 2006, five sites of FFI/JKPL received SA8000 certification,
notwithstanding information given by the CCC about the reported labour
rights violations at these companies. A formal complaint filed at SAI in
November 2006 resulted in additional investigation on compliance with
international labour standards at FFI/JKPL by a SAI consultant, which
confirmed that SA8000 certification of FFI/JKPL was not justified.

Various sources confirm that the SA8000 certification of the FFI/JKPL
units is suspended. However, the terms of suspension, including the
timeframe, remain unclear. Notwithstanding multiple requests for
additional information, SAI has not shared any information about the
details of the suspension procedures with CCC and ICN.

SAI's lack of communication regarding the status of the certification is
allegedly caused by threats of FFI/JKPL to start a court case against
SAI. The CCC and ICN strongly regret SAI's decision to remain silent,
and fear that SAI renders its position as independent certification
institution untenable once it starts giving in to threats by the
companies looking for certification.

FFI in Europe

FFI/JKPL has five production sites in Bangalore, but they are also
closely connected to their buyers in Europe. In Italy, the company
Tintoria Astico provides the high-tech computer designs to FFI/JKPL. The
company's shares are equally divided between Fibres and Fabrics
International in Bangalore, and Fibres and Fabrics Europe in the
Netherlands. The director of this last company is Anupam Kothari who
also is major shareholder of FFI/JKPL. The CCC addressed the company
Tintoria Astico, urging them to take immediate action and push FFI/JKPL
in Bangalore to withdraw its accusations directed at CCC, ICN and the
local labour rights organisations in Bangalore. The letter to FFI/JKPL,
included in our last call for action (see
http://www.cleanclothes.org/news/07-07-16.htm#action) has also been
forwarded to Manfred Gruiters, a Dutch director of FFI/JKPL. To date,
neither Tintoria Astico nor Manfred Gruiters responded to CCC and ICN's
calls .

Armani, Guess and Rare refuse to take responsibility

Armani, Rare and Guess have to date not reacted to the continuing calls
by the CCC and consumers/activists to take action towards FFI/JKPL
management. Their refusal to respond to calls from labour rights
organisations about working conditions at their production sites is
unacceptable. It is time that they take labour rights seriously, and
start taking responsibility for the working conditions in their supply

G-Star ducking and diving

On 7 June 2007, the CCC and ICN met with G-Star to see if there were
openings to discuss the necessary actions to resolve the pressing labour
rights issues at FFI/JKPL. Given that G-Star is the biggest buyer of
FFI/JKPL, the CCC and ICN appreciate G-Star's efforts to put more
pressure on FFI, but regret its lack of transparency regarding the
letters they have addressed to FFI/JKPL concerning this issue. G-Star
has recently stated that they have set a deadline to FFI/JKPL to comply
with the international right to freedom of association (FoA), and that
they believe this will be the case in September this year.
Pushing FFI towards respecting FoA would bring the situation forwards,
but the real devil is in the details. Letting FFI management choose the
unions they will allow into the factory is certainly no compliance with
FoA. It is not for the management to choose the unions they like.
Alarming is the recent announcement by a FFI consultant in FEM Business,
that the Dutch director Manfred Gruiters "refuses to let GATWU 'rule' at
his factories". After pushing out the union GATWU and starting legal
proceedings against every organisation supporting FFI workers, how free
will a worker be to join the union of their choice? That this can be
handled differently shows a recent example of a neighbouring factory,
Texports Creations, where a tripartite agreement aimed at improving
industrial relations between the union GATWU, GAP and management was

Gap reviewing their sourcing relationship

In light of the ongoing impasse between FFI and the various national and
international organizations, brands like Gap Inc. are under tremendous
pressure to review their sourcing relationship with FFI. As members of
ETI, they have to fulfil their membership obligations to the provisions
of the ETI Base Code, which is being severely tested due to the current
situation. ETI confirms that based on information gathered from several
sources, the implementation of some of the key provisions of the ETI
Base Code, in particular the right to Freedom of Association, are being
seriously hampered.

Mexx: speak out!

It is said that Mexx, another client of FFI/JKPL, has concluded that
they can no longer continue their orders at this factory. But Mexx has
not come out to say why. The Fair Wear Foundation, of which Mexx is a
member, has brought out a public statement about the lack of compliance
of FFI/JKPL with the FWF code of conduct, especially the right to
organise. The CCC and ICN regret that Mexx does not seem to be willing
to publicly state that their decision to leave the factory is caused by
FFI/JKPL's continuing refusal to engage with the local labour rights
organisations (currently banned from public speaking), and that once the
labour issues are resolved, they will reconsider doing business with
FFI/JKPL Also, to date the company has not indicated how they will
ensure that FFI/JKPL workers will not face negative consequences as a
result of the decision to suspend orders at FFI/JKPL.

Please take action today
Write to Armani, RaRe and Guess that their refusal to deal with the
labour rights violations at their supplier is unacceptable. Brands
sourcing from FFI/JKPL should univocally denounce this factory's legal
actions and call for a dialogue with the local union and labour rights
organizations involved. Also write to FFI/JKPL management and tell them
"enough is enough". Make it clear to FFI/JKPL and other companies that
litigation instead of working with local organisations to develop
solutions is not acceptable. The only way to work on sustainable
improvements is to start meaningful dialogue and negotiations with the
workers´ organisations involved.

Posted by cat at 02:14 PM