Respect for Workers’ Rights During Haiti Factory Closure

To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Scott Nova and Jessica Champagne
Date:October 6, 2016
Re:Respect for Workers’ Rights During Haiti Factory Closure

During the closure of university supplier Multiwear, located in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the WRC engaged with the factory and the key buyer to ensure that workers’ legal rights were respected and promote labor-management dialogue. Prior to the factory’s closure in March, the WRC recommended to the factory’s key buyer, HanesBrands (parent company of university licensees Knights Apparel and Gear for Sports, Inc.), that the factory negotiate an agreement with worker representatives regarding the terms of closure. The final agreement between the factory and two unions representing the workforce provides workers with severance pay above the amount required by law, and provides workers the opportunity to continue work at a new factory being opened by the owner. Prior to closure, Multiwear provided university licensed apparel to Russell Brands, which is owned by Fruit of the Loom. Further details can be found in this new memo from the WRC.

For several years prior to the closure, the WRC had engaged with Multiwear and its buyers regarding the payment of the minimum wage. Following our 2013 report Stealing from the Poor, which documented widespread noncompliance with the Haitian minimum wage, the WRC successfully pressed HanesBrands to require its suppliers to begin paying the appropriate wage. As a result of this intervention, Multiwear significantly increased its wages, came into compliance with the minimum wage, and negotiated a 2014 labor-management agreement dictating the terms of implementation of the wage commitment and requiring the payment of approximately $4,200 in back pay. In 2015, HanesBrands arranged access for the WRC to conduct an onsite payroll review confirming Multiwear’s compliance with its minimum wage commitments.

The loss of jobs resulting from a factory closure is never desirable given the economic impact on workers, their families, and the community as a whole. However, the direct and transparent negotiations conducted between the union and the employer, and the employer’s compliance with the law and with that agreement, set this closure apart from the typical experience in the apparel industry. All too often, factory owners close their operations suddenly without providing workers with even the minimum amount of severance pay required by law. It is to the credit of the factory owner and HanesBrands that this closure was marked by communication and negotiation with the relevant worker organizations, provision of financial compensation above that required by Haitian law, and an opportunity for workers to resume employment at the new facility.

Scott Nova 
Executive Director
[email protected]