Honduras has been accused of failing to enforce labour laws at five apparel companies

Honduras has been accused of failing to enforce labour laws at five apparel companies

The US has raised “serious” concerns over worker rights in Honduras and the enforcement of labour laws under the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), following a probe into working conditions at facilities, including apparel factories.

The alarm is raised in a report from the Department of Labor in response to a 78-page submission filed by the US union federation AFL-CIO and 26 Honduran unions and civil society organisations, alleging the Honduran government failed to effectively enforce its labour laws.

Among the violations cited across a range of sectors, five apparel companies were criticised in the report, including Williamson-Dickies Manufacturing Company, which produces workwear under the Dickies label. The submission alleges that the Honduran government (GOH) failed to enforce labour laws related to freedom of association when the company dismissed workers attempting to unionise on three different occasions. 

The GOH was also said to have failed to enforce labour laws related to freedom of association when Delta Apparel-owned garment factory Ceiba Textiles coerced union members to resign from their jobs. At A.tion, a Korean-owned apparel manufacturing factory which supplies garments to Foot Locker, Ecko, and Zoo York, criticism centred around the company’s "illegal dismissal of union members".

The report also claims the GOH failed to enforce labour laws related to violations of freedom of association stemming from the formation of an employer-dominated union at the factory, as well as laws related to acceptable conditions of work at Pinehurst, a US-owned apparel factory, which supplies Nike, Adidas, Armani, Kenneth Cole, and Calvin Klein

And Petralex, which produces garments foFamily DollarAeropostale, National Wholesale, and Prime Life, was said to have illegally dismissed over 100 union members in 2007 and 2008. 

In its review, the Department of Labor raised concerns over the protection of internationally recognised labour rights in Honduras, including the effective enforcement of labour laws related to:

  • The right of association and the right to organise and bargain collectively, specifically related to protections for founding union members and union leaders, anti-union retaliation, union dissolution, and employer interference with the right to associate and bargain collectively;
  • Acceptable conditions of work with respect to minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational safety and health;
  • The minimum age for the employment of children and the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour.

The report also noted concerns about the Government of Honduras' capacity to prevent, identify, and remedy violations of these labour laws.

It calls for the Department of Labor, in consultation with the Office of the US Trade Representative and US Department of State, to review progress towards addressing the concerns within 12 months, and to consider further appropriate action or engagement, as needed, under the DR-CAFTA.

In a joint statement, the Department of Labor and Secretariat of Labor and Social Security have pledged to work together to implement the recommendations, adding that they view the report as an “important opportunity to expand their robust bilateral cooperation on labour issues and to build upon steps already being taken by the Honduran government”.

"To build an economy that works for everyone, we must stand up for workers at home and around the world. When necessary, we must act to ensure compliance with the labour provisions of our trade agreements," said US Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. "This report is an important opportunity to strengthen our collaboration with Honduras in addressing critical labour rights concerns.”

US Trade Representative Michael Froman added: “The Obama Administration is taking unprecedented actions to promote and protect fundamental labour rights and ensure acceptable conditions of work.”

The Department of Labor has also launched a US$7m cooperative agreement to World Vision to implement a project to combat exploitative child labour and improve labour rights and working conditions in Honduras.

Honduras, ranked the fifth largest supplier of apparel to the US, saw its apparel shipments to the US climbed 1.1% to 1.09bn SME during the 12 months to December, according to data from the Department of Commerce's Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA).