Peru: Six Global Apparel Brands Reject Short-term Work Contracts

Short-term work contracts are one way employers around the world deny workers job security, seniority rights and health benefits, often while paying them low wages. So it’s noteworthy that six international apparel companies now support repeal of a law in Peru that allows employers in the garment and textile export industries to hire workers on consecutive short-term employment contracts.

In a letter to Peru President Ollanta Humala Tasso earlier this month, the companies write that repeal is “an opportunity for your government to demonstrate its strong support for social inclusion and decent working conditions.” The law, DL 223422, allows companies that export “non-traditional products” to employ workers on short-term contracts—typically for six months, but often for three months and sometimes for as little as one month—to work on specific export orders. The workers are re-hired on subsequent contracts, but never attain full-time job status.

The letter from New Balance; Nike; PVH Corp (owner of the Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein brands); VF Corporation (owner of Wrangler, Lee’s, North Face, Nautica and Timberland brands); 47 Brand; and Life Is Good, comes as the Peruvian Congress is getting set to reconvene. A proposal to repeal the labor provisions of DL 223422 has been presented to congressional committees by members of congress, but textile and apparel manufacturers strongly oppose it.

Passed in 1978 to promote the textile industry, the law was slated to be in place only 10 years, says Vicente Castro, secretary general of the Textile Workers Federation of Peru (Federación de Trabajadores en Tejidos del Perú, FTTP).

In their letter, the corporations also wrote that “in addition to monitoring our suppliers in order to ensure compliance with labor standards, we also look to governments to support and enforce the rule of law in order to ensure that business and workers can operate in a fair and safe environment.”

Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union says: “Peru produces quality cotton and fibers and has succeeded in positioning itself as a provider for major brands.

However, the ‘made in Peru’ label is being tainted by the abuse that comes with the use of short-term employment contracts.”

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has repeatedly asked the government of Peru to amend the law and during his 2011 election campaign, President Ollanta Humala promised to abolish the decree.

The two Peruvian textile federations, Federacion Nacional de Trabajadores Textiles de Peru (FNTTP) and the Federacion de Trabajadores en Tejidos de Peru (FTTP), are urging members of the Peruvian Congress to ensure that the legal reform proposal is discussed in committee.

The federations also are working with their membership and media to generate grassroots pressure so that if needed changes are not made, the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration can add their influence on behalf of Peru’s workers.

Read more at The Maquila Solidarity Network and US LEAP.