Apparel Brands Urge Labor Reform in Peru

Six global apparel brands took the unusual and welcome step this week of publicly calling on a government to improve its labor laws.  

In their March 4 letter to Peruvian President Ollanta Humala Tasso, New Balance, Nike, Philips Van Heusen and three other brands said that current labor law that allows maquilas (apparel and other exporters) to use short-term contracts undermines worker rights and the ability of these companies to ensure compliance with their codes of conduct.

The law (Decree #22342) essentially permits employers in the apparel-for-export sector in Peru to hire workers on temporary contracts on a recurring basis, lasting for years.   The short term contracts make it nearly impossible for workers to organize unions and exempts employers from other obligations due permanent workers.

The other three brands on the letter were 47 Brand, Life is Good, and the VF Corporation.  The six brands urged repeal of the law. 

The Maquila Solidarity Network, the global union IndustriALL, and the AFL-CIO's Solidarity Center worked with the brands to bring attention to this issue.

While not noted in the letter, the law also violates international standards and is in violation of the labor conditions of the U.S.-Peruvian Free Trade Agreement that went into effect in 2008.

A similar law applies to the agricultural export sector, allowing employers to indefinitely employ workers on short-term contracts, paying lower wages and depriving workers of their basic rights.  A recent case involves Camposol, the country’s most prominent agro-industry company, where workers who formed a union in January were not rehired when their short term contracts expired.