Brand Agreements Summary
Agreement on Program Designed to Eliminate GBVH at Nien Hsing Factories in Lesotho
Five Lesotho trade unions and women’s rights organizations (WLSA, FIDA, IDUL, UNITE and NACTWU) entered into separate agreements with the US brands, Kontoor Brands, The Children’s Place, and Levi Strauss & Co., to establish a program designed to eliminate gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH) in the Lesotho factories of Nien Hsing Textile. The agreements reflect the parties’ shared commitment to protect the rights of women in the workplace, support economic development in Lesotho, and promote Lesotho as an apparel exporting country. There are three other signatories to the agreements: the Solidarity Center, the Worker Rights Consortium, and Workers United. These entities provide technical and administrative assistance and support for the program, including worker training on GBVH.
The agreements operate in tandem with a separate agreement among Nien Hsing and the trade unions and women’s rights organizations to establish an independent investigative organization to receive complaints of GBVH from workers, carry out investigations and assessments, identify violations of a jointly developed code of conduct, and direct and enforce remedies. The program also involves extensive worker-to-worker training, education, and related activities.
Under the separate agreements with the brands, the brands and the local organizations agreed to appoint representatives to serve on an Oversight Committee for the program. Voting power on the Oversight Committee is evenly divided between brand representatives and representatives of the trade unions and women’s right organizations, who collectively choose a neutral voting Chair. Nien Hsing and the WRC each have observer status on the Oversight Committee.
Under the separate agreements with the brands, the brands agreed to provide substantial funding for the program, to direct Nien Hsing to provide appropriate access to the covered factories, and to direct Nien Hsing to refrain from any retaliation against workers bringing complaints or otherwise participating in the program. Each brand also separately agreed that should the Oversight Committee determine that Nien Hsing has materially breached the agreement with the trade unions and women’s rights organizations, it will independently reduce future production orders to create a commercial reason for Nien Hsing to return to compliance. The term of the separate agreements between the brands and the Lesotho organizations was two years; however, each brand’s agreement to independently reduce future production orders to create a commercial reason for Nien Hsing to abide by its agreement extends beyond the initial two year period. The separate agreements with the brands are enforceable through binding arbitration.