Levi’s dragged into Madagascan dockworker dispute

Union insists clothing company’s workers’ rights policies need to be extended to shipper’s global supply chains - including ports.

International clothing company Levi Strauss and Co. is under pressure to help end the alleged exploitation of Madagascan dockworkers, with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) claiming that the company’s workers’ rights policies for its factories need to be extended to cover the shipper’s global supply chains – including ports.

The ITF is launching a report, entitled Levi’s: End the Double Standard in your Supply Chain highlighting the company’s involvement in the alleged exploitation of Madagascan dockworkers. It said actions at Levi’s stores “will occur across the globe to highlight the issue, starting in Sydney”.

ITF president Paddy Crumlin said the union was seeking the intervention of the global clothing company in a widening dispute with the Madagascan government and port operator International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI).

“Levi’s are industry leaders in developing policies to improve workers’ rights in their factories but the same rights need to be extended to their global supply chains,” he said. “Levi’s policies have seen improvements in working conditions for the garment workers, but transport workers that deliver Levi’s jeans and other apparel to stores across the globe are being exploited and working in dangerous conditions.

“Levi’s exports through the Port of Toamasina (Tamatave), where casual dock workers often work without safety equipment, and struggle to make ends meet on their wages; 43 were fired when they came together to fight for better working conditions. The Government of Madagascar faces an International Labour Organisation (ILO) complaint over the dispute,” Crumlin said.

The ITF said The ICTSI-operated Port of Toamasina is the main gateway for $360 million worth of textile products exported to Europe, $100 million to South Africa, and $60 million to the US, with major international brands including Levi Strauss sourcing clothing in Madagascar. It said the 43 workers at Toamasina port sacked for being members of a union worked for MICTSL (Madagascar International Container Terminal Services Ltd. – a subsidiary of Philippine container terminal operator ICTSI) and SMMC (MDG government-owned company who provides casual labour to MICTSL.

Asked several weeks ago by Lloyd’s Loading List whether it was correct that 43 dock workers at the MICTSL terminal were sacked for being members of a union, Hans-Ole Madsen, senior vice president of ICTSI, said the ITF statements “would appear to relate to a company named SMMC”, adding: “We do not have any information pertaining to this matter.” Madsen continued: “For the sake of clarity, we can advise that the ICTSI labour at our Toamasina facility is unionised and we have a Collective Bargain Agreement in place duly signed by Union Representatives and the Ministry of Labour.”

Madsen did not respond when asked to confirm whether SMMC provides casual labour to MICTSL and whether that makes ICTSI at least indirectly responsible for the workers and their working conditions.

By: Will Waters
Source: Llyod's Loading List