Friday, February 06, 2009

This issue has been mentioned before here at Molly's Blog, but, despite legal victories, workers at the DESA leather works in Turkey have still been stymied by management attempting to deny them the right to form an union. The Clean Clothes Campaign hopes that you will join them in putting further pressure on DESA and its European customers so that the workers involved can better their condition. Here's the story from the CCC and what you can do to help.
DESA: More talk, still no action:
It is now nine months since DESA workers stood up to demand their right to a union. More pressure is needed to make DESA and its buyers take responsibility for these workers and protect their right to join a union.

In November 2008 the Clean Clothes Campaign and LabourStart put out an urgent appeal for action to support sacked and exploited Turkish leather workers producing for some of Europe's most luxurious brands. Since then the Turkish court has upheld our claim that workers at DESA were sacked for union activity, and several meetings have taken place between the union and DESA management. Despite these apparent victories, little has changed for the workers on the ground and none of the union's demands have been met.

It is now nine months since DESA workers stood up to demand their right to a union. More pressure is needed to make DESA and its buyers take responsibility for these workers and protect their right to join a union.

More talk, still no action:
Our initial appeal called on all the buyers we had contacted to join a meeting coordinated by the International Textile Garment and Leather Workers Union, set for the 20th December. To our knowledge none of the buyers agreed to attend the meeting. Most simply never responded, one responded negatively, others just had better things to do that day.

Luckily for them the focus shifted from pushing for a buyers meeting when DESA suddenly agreed to meet with the union to discuss their demands. The first meeting took place on Friday 19th December and according to those present was a useful and constructive meeting. However no agreement could be reached on the reinstatement of the sacked workers and it was agreed to continue the meeting the following Monday.

On Monday 22nd December Deri Is representatives again met with DESA management, but this time the meeting was less successful, Not only was no agreement reached regarding reinstatement, but the atmosphere became less constructive and DESA backtracked on some of the other points discussed on the 19th. DESA was asked to provide written documents clarifying their position on all of the Deri Is demands, to ensure that those agreements already made were not reversed. Until now no such document has been provided.

Since the 22nd December several other meetings took place, the last on the 13th January. No progress was made and no written notes or documents produced. We are concerned that DESA is now using these meetings to stall the campaign, as it is unclear why they continue to refuse to provide any written documents. It is important to show DESA that meeting for meetings sake will not bring a resolution and to urge them to resume a positive approach aimed at reaching a resolution.
Court cases confirm union discrimination:
On the 24th December Emine Arslan from the Sekafoy factory and 4 other workers from the Duzce factory finally got to make their case at court. The court found that they were dismissed as a result of union activity and that they should either be reinstated or properly compensated for illegal dismissal. DESA have appealed these findings. On the 20nd January the court heard a further 3 cases followed by a further 5 on the 22nd January 2009. All 8 workers were judged to have been illegally dismissed as a result of union organising. DESA have yet to respond to these judgements, other than to continue to refuse reinstatement to Emine and a number of other workers.
Copy of the courts decision on Emine Arslan
Ongoing dismissals prove need for union representation:
30 workers dismissed due to the 'economic crisis' 4 of which were union members. Given that this occurred during an ongoing dispute, it could be argued that if DESA genuinely wished to show goodwill to Deri Is, they would have avoided dismissing more of their members. These four, Aysen Yilmaz, Nursen Meydan, Serda Yilmaz and Zeki Acar, continue to fight for reinstatement. We understand that DESA will agree to the reinstatement should brands place orders at the factory (but as nothing is in writing....)

Workers across the world are now facing the possibility of redundancy as the world economic situation worsens. We have no way of knowing if DESA is genuinely facing financial difficulty or if this is just another way of intimidating its workers. Either way the situation makes it even more urgent to get recognition for the union and ensure workers are properly consulted in any future redundancy plans.
Brands - failing to take responsibility:
The last call for action focused on DESA buyers we felt had done nothing to take responsibility for conditions at DESA or the workers sacked for trying to improve them. This included Prada, Mulberry, Nicole Fahri (owned by French Connection), Luella, Samsonite, and Aspinalls of London.

Luella and Samsonite have never responded to any letters, nor have they ever contacted the ITGLWF, Deri Is or the Clean Clothes Campaign.

Prada, by far the biggest client at the factory, did respond to emails from the Italian Clean Clothes Campaign and the ITGLWF, but the response was so far from adequate they may as well not have bothered. They simply pointed out that an audit had been done and found 'no problems,' some union members were still in the factory so there couldn't be a freedom of association problem' and they would wait for the outcome of legal processes.

Aspinals of London responded in November to say they were 'investigating.' We heard nothing from them since. Nicole Fahri said the same and then stopped responding to emails.

Other brands involved in the case, but not targeted in the campaign included the Spanish giant El Corte Ingles and British high street retailers Marks and Spencer and Debenhams. They have continued to be more active than the others and, following a certain amount of prodding, have contacted DESA to raise concerns. M&S also commissioned another audit, which we believe was more credible but which they never made it public or shared the findings with other brands, the unions or campaigners. None of the brands have been willing to work together and none have taken the kind of proactive action needed to support a positive resolution of the case.
Our response: We need action not audits:
The Clean Clothes Campaign re-contacted all the brands last week, sending a further letter to the brands. The ITGLWF, along with unions from Spain, Italy and the UK also put out a statement calling on them to take responsibility to resolve this case.
- Link to CCC letter

Almost all the brands mention audits done at the factory as part of their 'response' to the allegations. We understand the need for brands to clarify the facts, but this case has now been ongoing since April 2008. The facts are well know and more 'investigations' won't change the situation on the ground. The only way to resolve this case is through negotiation and legal processes.

None of the brands have engaged with any kind of negotiation, despite repeated attempts to get them to do so. We are calling on the brands to ask their supplier to provide written documents of all the meetings that take place and progress reports on the negotiation process. We are also calling on them (again) to participate in this process themselves and engage in meetings with both the union and DESA management.

Prada, along with other buyers stated that “should they get evidence of violations confirmed by Turkish authorities, they will be ready to take necessary measures with DESA.” The court has now confirmed these violations, but in the month following the original court decision Prada and the others have proved anything BUT willing to take the 'necessary measures.

The brands and DESA need to know that the campaign will not be silenced through bogus meetings and needless investigations. The Turkish court has upheld the complaints made by workers and this is all the investigation we need. Buyers now need to take the action they promised to ensure DESA workers get the justice they deserve.
Please go to THIS LINK to send the following letter.
Please take action today:
Use this form to send the following letter directly to: , , , , , , ,
Dear DESA buyer,
I am concerned to hear that your company is continuing
to ignore the ongoing repression of union members at the DESA factories in
Turkey. I understand that the Turkish court has now confirmed that the dismissal
of DESA workers was as a result of union organising and has demanding their

Therefore we urge you to contact DESA
management today and urge them to negotiate an agreement with the Deri Is union
that includes the following demands: the reinstatement of ALL the dismissed
workers immediately and unconditionally to the same positions previously held,
provide a written guarantee to all workers that they are free to join the trade
union of their choosing; develop proper grievance and disciplinary procedures,
recognise the Deri Is union as the legitimate representative of its members and
assure access of independent trade unions to the workers.

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