Two apparel factories in Guatemala employing 1250 workers are to remain open after 11th hour collective bargaining between unions and management.

The Guatemalan Government had threatened to sanction the Choi Shin and Cimatextiles factories by annulling their export benefits if management and unions could not remedy documented labour problems in the factories.

Government removal of export benefits would likely have caused the factories to close. The Government said its threat was tied to labour rights violations in the factories, including the antagonistic posture management had maintained towards Sitrachoi and Sitracima - the only independent unions in the Guatemalan apparel industry - since their founding in July 2001.

The factories, which are owned by the Korean company Choi & Shins, produce garments for Liz Claiborne. As a Fair Labor Association participating company, Liz Claiborne holds contractors in its supply chain accountable to the FLA's Code of Conduct, which lists worker protections including the right to form a union and bargain collectively.

In June 2003, workers at the factories took their complaints directly to the FLA, alleging that management continued to violate their freedom of association rights despite previous mediation efforts.

FLA staff and Liz Claiborne representatives moved quickly to help bring management to the negotiating table and to prevent government sanctions.

Also helping to ensure that these negotiations were successful were the International Textile, Garment, and Leather Workers Federation (ITGLWF), the Guatemalan union FESTRAS, and the US-based advocacy group US/LEAP.