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Interim report by FLA regarding Apple Tree Factory issue
Aug '11
On March 25, 2011, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) received a Third Party Complaint from representatives of the Sindicato de la Industria Textil y Actividades Conexas y Similares (SITS), one of the two legally recognized unions at the factory Apple Tree, S.A. de C.V. (“Apple Tree”) in San Salvador, El Salvador.

The Third Party Complaint alleged violations of local labor standards and of the FLA Workplace Code of Conduct, in particular with respect to Freedom of Association and Harassment or Abuse.

FLA-affiliated companies Russell Brands, LLC (“Russell Brands”), a Participating Company, and M.J. Soffe, a Category B Licensee, source from Apple Tree.

In accordance with the FLA Third Party Complaint Procedure, the FLA assessed the complaint and made the determination to accept it for review and to move it to Step 2 of the Procedure.2 On April 7, Russell Brands and M.J. Soffe were notified about the acceptance of the Third Party Complaint.

M.J. Soffe reported that on April 14, as part of the assessment of the complaint,3 its representatives and those of Delta Apparel, Inc.4 visited Apple Tree and met with the owner, Human Resource Manager and Contract Administrator for M.J. Soffe. Additional meetings were held with the owner of Apple Tree on May 5 and 6.

Some of the issues raised in the Third Party Complaint had previously been identified through an FLA Independent External Verification5 (IEV) that was conducted in August 2010, by GMIES (Grupo de Monitoreo Independiente de El Salvador), an FLA-accredited monitor. M.J. Soffe was in the process of implementing and fine-tuning a remediation plan to address the noncompliances when the Third Party Complaint allegations were raised.

The principal allegations made by the complainants regarding freedom of association were also identified in the IEV, namely:
• management's preferential treatment and privileges favoring one union over another; and
• management's interference with workers' affiliation with SITS.

With respect to the first point, M.J. Soffe's assessment confirmed that the leader of the STITAS union had been given substantial latitude to move around the factory during working hours to engage in union activities, a privilege not granted to the leader of SITS. Management has taken steps to end the ability of the STITAS union leader to move around the factory to conduct union business during working hours. M.J. Soffe's assessment did not confirm the specific allegation that management promoted affiliation with the STITAS union to new employees.

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Incorporated in 1999, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) is a collaborative effort of socially responsible companies, colleges and universities, and civil society organizations to improve working conditions in factories around the world. The FLA has developed a Workplace Code of Conduct, based on ILO standards, and created a practical monitoring, remediation and verification process to achieve those standards.

Fair Labor Association (FLA)

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