International fashion brands call on Madagascar to respect international labour standards and reinstate workers
The Government of Madagascar is coming under increasing international pressure to resolve a major industrial dispute at the ICTSI Port of Toamasina. Local union leader Lucien Razafindraibe is expected to deliver a joint letter from international fashion brands to the Madagascan Labour Minister in the Madagascan capital, Antananarivo.
Paddy Crumlin, president of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and chair of its dockers’ section have welcomed news that Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) member brands Marks and Spencer, Skins Ltd, Next Plc and Men’s Warehouse UK have joined the campaign to help end the exploitation of Madagascan dockworkers.
“These major international brands join Levi’s and Esprit in demonstrating leadership and recognising that the transport workers, who move their clothing from the factory to stores around the world, deserve to be treated fairly.
“ITF challenged global brands sourcing from Madagascar to step up and support the rights of dockworkers at the Port of Toamasina, and the response has been positive. We’ve seen concrete steps to support these workers, with brands writing directly to the Government of Madagascar calling on them to enforce international labour standards, reinstate 43 unfairly dismissed dockworkers and allow SYGMMA to represent workers at the port.
Category Leader of Apparel and Textiles at ETI, Martin Buttle, said “Not only were we concerned for the dock workers themselves, we were also concerned that action against legitimate union activity would deter investor confidence in Madagascar as a future sourcing market.
“In the letter to the government, we confirmed that our members wanted to continue sourcing from Madagascar but equally had to consider obligations to comply with international standards. With the full support of our members, we therefore asked that the government of Madagascar take steps to enforce its labour laws, ensure that the 43 dock workers were reinstated and allow the union to organise at the port.”
Mr Crumlin added that, “The success of the public campaigning and private engagement shows quite clearly that for transport companies, like ICTSI, labour rights abuses may be part of their business model, but for fashion brands labour rights violations in their supply chains represent such a significant risk to the value of their brand that they are prepared to use their market influence to advocate for these workers.”
The garment industry is the largest employer of workers in the formal economy in Madagascar, employing 30 per cent of the formal workforce. As a result, this intervention from leading brands cannot be ignored by the Government of Madagascar.
“ITF is looking to the Government of Madagascar to show leadership, and step in to defend these workers’ basic human rights against ICTSI’s aggressive campaign to drive down their wages and conditions. These workers have waited long enough.” Mr Crumlin said.