Update on Russell Athletic/Fruit of the Loom in Honduras

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January 21, 2016

Dear Colleagues,

Please find here a memo regarding developments at two factories in Honduras that are owned by, and provide collegiate licensed apparel for, Russell Athletic and its parent company, Fruit of the Loom (FOTL). These developments reflect the continuing impact of the agreement signed between Russell/FOTL and a Honduran union federation, the Central General de Trabajadores (CGT), in 2009, following extensive university engagement.  

In October 2015, Russell/FOTL announced that it would be closing one of its facilities in Honduras, Jerzees Buena Vista, but that the workers would be rehired at another factory owned by the firm, Manufacturas Villanueva. Manufacturas Villanueva, in turn, would convert production from a traditional five-day workweek to a “4 by 4” schedule in which factory employees alternate four 11-hour days of work with four days of leave. This system uses two teams on complementary schedules, enabling the factory to accommodate a larger number of employees.  

Following the announcement, Russell/FOTL, CGT, and the relevant CGT-affiliated unions successfully negotiated terms of this transition in order to minimize any negative impact on workers at both factories. As a result of the negotiation, the parties agreed that the Jerzees Buena Vista employees will receive their legally-due severance along with an additional monetary bonus and will be hired as new employees at Manufacturas Villanueva. In recognition of the workers’ willingness to accommodate the new location and schedule, Russell/FOTL agreed to provide other benefits to workers, such as an additional day of paid vacation each year and improved transportation to and from the worksite.

During this closure, workers’ voices were heard and their rights were respected. Russell/FOTL and the Honduran unions negotiated a resolution that ensured that workers were transferred on fair terms, including benefits above those required by law, and that these terms were clearly communicated to workers. This is a tribute to the framework established by the 2009 agreement and the relationship formed over the past seven years of negotiations. This process and outcome stand in distinct contrast to typical industry practices; all too often, factory owners in the apparel industry shutter factories suddenly and without advance notice to workers, often failing to provide workers with wages and other compensation that they have earned.

The WRC will continue to update universities on developments at Jerzees Buena Vista, Manufacturas Villanueva, and the other factories owned by Russell/FOTL in Honduras.

Best,

Scott

Scott Nova 
Worker Rights Consortium 
5 Thomas Circle NW, 5th Floor
Washington, DC 20005 
ph 202 387 4884 
fax 202 387 3292 
nova@workersrights.org 
www.workersrights.org