International fashion brands including Marks and Spencer and Levi’s have signed a joint letter to the Madagascan government, calling for a resolution to an industrial dispute at the Port of Toasmina.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) claims that dockworkers are being mistreated, alleging that 43 employees were unfairly dismissed by port operator International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI).
The letter demands the reinstatement of the dockworkers plus the Syndicat General Maritime de Madagascar (SYGMMA) union to be allowed to represent workers at the port.
Category leader of apparel and textiles at the Ethical Trading Initiative (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.”
The ETI features Marks and Spencer, Skins, Next and Men’s Warehouse UK as its members while Levi’s and Esprit have already voiced support for the dockworkers.
The dockworkers in the region are allegedly being “exploited” as the International Container Terminal Services (ICTSI) campaign to drive down their wages and conditions, according to a media release from the ITF.
The ITF have asked that the government take “steps” to enforce labour laws, ensure the 43 unfairly dismissed dock workers are reinstated and allow the union to organise the port.
Paddy Crumlin, president of the ITF said: “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% of the formal workforce.