Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Investigation for Catholic School Boards uncovers worker rights violations in factory producing school uniforms:

Toronto- For years, students have been asking questions about where and under what conditions their school uniforms are being made. A new report on a factory investigation conducted by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) for Catholic School Boards in Ontario confirms their worst fears.

The recent investigation revealed that a Chinese factory, Lianglong Socks Ltd in Zhuji City, China, which produces socks for many Ontario Catholic schools, violates Chinese law, school uniform manufacturer RJ McCarthy's Code of Conduct and Ontario Catholic School Boards' fair labour policies. The investigation was conducted by the WRC on behalf of an association of nine Catholic school boards in Ontario that employed the WRC to help it implement its fair labour policies.

"School Boards have taken a big step in uncovering these abuses. This report must be a catalyst for change," said Lori Ryan, Chair of the Ontario Catholic No Sweat Network (OCNSN). "The factory conditions must improve, and the supplier held accountable," she added.
The WRC's investigation documents flagrant violations of workers' rights, including:
near or below freezing temperatures in the unheated factory and dormitories;
*forced, excessive and unpaid overtime;
*the withholding of a portion of workers' pay for up to a year at a time;
*the failure to pay all workers the legal minimum wage;
*dirty, hazardous, illegal and unsafe conditions in the dormitories, bathrooms and factory;
*labour contracts that violated local law; and
*failure to provide legally required benefits like workers' injury compensation and maternity leave.
The WRC also concluded that factory management:
*falsified payroll, time and employee records; and
*coached workers to lie to inspectors about working conditions.

"It's outrageous that our socks are being made under such terrible conditions," said Natasha Vaz, a Grade 12 student at Cardinal Newman Secondary School in Toronto, and one of the thousands of students in Ontario wearing RJ McCarthy uniforms. "The intensive campaign against sweatshops is close to our hearts and consistent with all the values we are taught in school. It's extremely hypocritical for our school apparel to be produced under such cruel conditions," she contends.

"For years now, clothing brands and manufacturers have insisted their clothes are squeaky clean," said Kevin Thomas, Director of Advocacy at the Toronto-based Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN). "This report is a warning to all schools, municipalities and provincial governments that, in dealing with an industry that relies heavily on outsourced manufacturing, you need mechanisms like this to verify manufacturers' claims. ‘Just trust me' isn't good enough."

In response to the investigation, the WRC reports, R.J. McCarthy has now promised to "provide factory management with a letter asking for concrete commitments, with clear deadlines, with respect to each area where corrective action is needed." R.J. McCarthy has also pledged to revise its approach to monitoring to include a thorough review of factory records - something it hadn't done in the past.

The Lianglong Socks investigation is the second of two independent uniform factory investigations conducted by WRC on behalf of Ontario Catholic School Boards. The first investigation of the Empresas T&M factory in the Dominican Republic, which produces uniforms for Halpern's, exposed violations including unpaid wages and unhealthy drinking water. Halpern's and Empresas T&M management agreed to work to remedy the violations. The remedies still need to be verified.

The sustained effort of students, teachers and school board trustees caused twelve Ontario Catholic School Boards to adopt no-sweat uniform policies in recent years, and will continue to encourage all boards to develop policies and collaborate in this joint monitoring project.
Ontario Catholic No Sweat Network (OCNSN) is a network of students, teachers, and trustees across Ontario working with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace and the Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN) to promote the adoption and enforcement of "No Sweat" purchasing policies.

The Maquila Solidarity Network is a labour and women's rights organization that supports the efforts of workers in global supply chains to win improved wages and working conditions and a better quality of life.
Read the WRC report
The Catholic school boards in Ontario that have joined together to contract the WRC to help implement their fair labour policies are: Durham Catholic District School Board, Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board, Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario, Halton Catholic District School Board, Hamilton Catholic District School Board, Simcoe-Muskoka Catholic District School Board, St. Clair Catholic District School Board, Toronto Catholic District School Board, and the York Catholic District School Board.
For further information contact:
Lori Ryan,
Development and Peace,
Ontario Catholic No Sweat Network,
(416) 922-1592 ext. 230;
[can connect media with students]
Kevin Thomas, Maquila Solidarity Network:
(416) 532-8584

MSN-RJM Press release-04-07-08.doc

1 comment:

Larry Gambone said...

That an institution that would abuse (and even murder FN children) in residential schools would also use Chinese slave labour does not surprise me.