Remediation at Premium Apparel (Haiti)


January 25, 2017

Please find here a memo from the WRC on remediation of violations of freedom of association at Premium Apparel, a factory in Haiti supplying university licensed apparel. After our investigation confirmed allegations that two workers had been terminated in violation of university codes of conduct, the WRC engaged with factory management and the primary buyer, Gildan, to ensure the workers’ reinstatement with back pay. Gildan supplies blank shirts to the university licensees New Agenda and Cotton Gallery.

The two workers were serving as union leaders at the time of their dismissal, and were terminated in response to their role in organizing mass protests in May 2016 to demand an increase in the minimum wage. After interviewing workers, reviewing correspondence and legal documents, and reviewing information provided to the WRC by factory management, the WRC found that these terminations violated the workers’ associational rights, and thus university codes of conduct. The WRC communicated this position to Gildan and to factory management, and pressed for the full necessary remediation: reinstatement with back pay for both workers. The factory reinstated the workers on August 1, 2016. After additional advocacy by the WRC, the workers received the full amount owed to them on October 1, 2016.

This is not the first case in which factories supplying university licensed apparel in Haiti have felt free to retaliate against workers who have exercised their right to organize unions with their coworkers and engage in public protest, despite the fact that such retaliation is prohibited by Haitian law, international standards, and university codes of conduct. This hostility to workers’ associational rights is consistent with the findings of a recent report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai. In his final report to the United Nations General Assembly, Kiai emphasized that workers’ associational rights “are essential to human dignity, economic empowerment, sustainable development and democracy,” but that such rights are all often inadequately protected by governments, employers, and the international community. The Special Rapporteur noted that “some of the worst abuses of freedom of association and peaceful assembly are found” in global supply chains, highlighting the impunity of international brands and retailers, the “downward pressure on wages and working conditions,” and the lack of adequate legal remedies in countries where factories are located. “Access to effective remedies,” he wrote, “is a key issue for workers, who often lack legal recourse for rights violations.”

By adopting and enforcing their codes of conduct, requiring that licensees disclose their supplier factories, and affiliating to the WRC, universities have played a leading role in creating access to remedy for workers who all too often were “disenfranchised of their rights,” in the words of the Special Rapporteur. While freedom of association remains a serious issue in Haiti and around the world, each case that is positively resolved due to the intervention of the WRC and our affiliate universities creates an opportunity for workers to continue exercising these crucial rights, which then allows workers to advocate independently for the other rights – such as safe workplaces, protection against discrimination, and payment of all legal wages – protected by university codes of conduct. As Kiai points out, workers’ associational rights “are the gateway to all other rights; without them, all other human and civil rights are in jeopardy.”

The WRC will continue to monitor developments at Premium. The WRC has also engaged with Premium and its owner, Clifford Apaid, with regard to compliance with Haitian minimum wage standards. In our 2013 report Stealing from the Poor, the WRC documented the universal failure of Haitian garment factories to pay workers the legally required minimum wage. Following the publication of this report, Gildan and other important buyers in Haiti made commitments to ensure compliance with the minimum wage in their supplier factories, which has brought significant progress at a number of factories including Premium. We will be providing a broader update on developments with regard to minimum wage compliance in Haiti in the future.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions about this case.


Scott Nova and Jessica Champagne

Scott Nova   
Executive Director 
Worker Rights Consortium

Jessica Champagne
Deputy Director for Field Operations and Strategy
Worker Rights Consortium