Brief WRC Updates on Philippines worker rights crisis and BJ&B

To:Primary Contacts, WRC Affiliate Colleges and Universities
From:Scott Nova
Date:May 2, 2007
Re:Brief WRC Updates on Philippines worker rights crisis and BJ&B

Attachments: BJB Meeting Agenda.pdfLetter to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from University Licensees.pdf

The following are brief updates on two important topics. Please let me know if you have any questions about this information. 

Licensee communication regarding violence against worker advocates in the Philippines 

As you may recall, the WRC issued a report in February on a factory in the Philippines known as Chong Won. The final section of this report looked at the broader problem of growing violence against worker rights advocates and trade unionists in the Philippines. The report included a recommendation that university licensees sourcing from the Philippines communicate to the Filipino government to express concern over the situation. The WRC report can be found on our website here.

I am pleased to report that five university licensees have agreed to send a joint letter, drafted by the WRC, to the government of the Philippines, urging the government to protect the safety and rights of workers and labor rights advocates. The five licensees are Charles River Apparel, Cutter & Buck, Majestic Athletic, Oarsman Sportswear, and VF Corporation (parent company of Jansport, VF Imagewear and Lee Sport). Their letter is attached. (The letter references a similar communication sent from a number of major clothing brands in November, which is available here.) In the WRC’s experience, such communications can have a significant impact on the behavior of the governments of apparel producing countries. The Collegiate Licensing Company assisted in outreach to licensees and we thank them for their efforts. 

Meeting concerning the announced closure of BJ&B

As you know, the WRC proposed to Nike and adidas in March that a multi-stakeholder meeting be held to discuss the crisis at BJ&B: to analyze the reasons for the factory’s predicament and to explore strategies for keeping the factory open. At that time, Nike declined to participate, and adidas, which originally agreed to attend, reversed its decision in light of Nike’s.

Nike has, however, now agreed to meet. A meeting has been scheduled for May 8. The meeting, which is being officially convened by the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF), will be held in the Dominican Republic.

The meeting will focus on the reasons for the closure, the prospects for re-opening the factory, the dispute over the severance process, and also broader issues related to the economic situation of the apparel industry in the Dominican Republic. A tentative meeting agenda, prepared by the ITGLWF, is attached. Meeting participants will include BJ&B management, BJ&B workers and union representatives, the WRC and the FLA, as well as Nike and the ITGLWF. Adidas, unfortunately, will not participate, apparently due to scheduling issues. Also, BJ&B’s parent company, Yupoong, has not yet agreed to attend, which is unfortunate, because Yupoong, not BJ&B, is the decision-maker on the critical issues. Yupoong is only likely to agree to participate if Nike and/or adidas press the company to do so.

Nike’s decision to meet is a step in the right direction, which we hope will lead to constructive dialogue among the stakeholders and a meaningful effort to identify strategies for averting final closure of the factory. We will provide you with a report once the meeting is concluded.

Scott Nova
Worker Rights Consortium
5 Thomas Circle NW
Washington DC 20005
ph 202 387 4884
fax 202 387 3292