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For Immediate Release

April 1, 2022

Contact: Rachel Cohen, racohen78@gmail.com, 917-370-8464

Landmark Dindigul Agreement to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence and Harassment at Eastman Exports Natchi Apparels with the Support of Global Allies

Tirupur, India (April 1, 2022) – Today Eastman Exports Global Clothing Private Limited, the Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union, the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, and Global Labor Justice- International Labor Rights Forum, along with H&M Group (H&M), jointly announce the groundbreaking Dindigul Agreement to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence and Harassment (GBVH), in the first year reaching 5,000 mostly female workers in spinning mills and garment cut and sew facilities.

These stakeholders have signed as set of agreements which jointly commit to work together from their supply chain role to eradicate discrimination based on gender, caste, or migration status; to increase transparency; and to develop a culture of mutual respect in the garment factory setting.

The agreement draws language from the International Labor Organization’s Convention 190 concerning the elimination of violence and harassment in the workplace and strongly protects freedom of association and the rights of Dalit women workers. Tirupur is known as India’s textile spinning capital and is the largest producer of cotton yarn in India, employing over 280,000 workers total.

“All our employees deserve safety and respect at work,” said Subhash Tiwari, CEO of Eastman Exports, one of the largest clothing manufacturers in Tirupur, India. “It is our hope that this unique agreement and partnership will not only positively impact Natchi’s valued workforce but will also serve as a model for other garment factories.”

The agreement includes an innovative program known as “Safe Circles” with regular training for all workers, supervisors, and managers; a peer education program; and shop floor monitors to detect and report GBVH. The program will be anchored by Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU), a women-led independent and majority Dalit trade union of textile workers. The Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), an alliance of trade unions and labor organizations representing garment workers across Asia and Global Labor Justice- International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF), a global human and labor rights advocacy organization focused on eliminating GBVH have joined as signatories and will support these efforts.

As a part of the agreement, Eastman Exports will amend its internal policies and procedures including to strengthen the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) and establish an independent grievance mechanism overseen by third-party experts.

“This agreement delivers power and support to women workers to monitor, prevent and remediate GBVH collectively and with management,” said Jeeva M, General Secretary of TTCU. “We will use this as a model to organize against GBVH and caste-based discrimination industry wide.”

Anannya Bhattacharjee, the International Coordinator of AFWA said, “The leadership and commitment of the Dalit women-led trade union TTCU has led to this historic agreement, which puts forth a model of how fashion brands, suppliers and trade unions can work together to prevent and remediate GBVH in Asian garment supply chains. We are happy to be partnering with H&M and Eastman Exports in the implementation of this agreement, which offers a multi- faceted approach to achieving violence-free workplaces.”

“This agreement is a model for the role brands, suppliers, and labor partners have in eliminating gender-based violence from supply chains and promoting freedom of association,” says Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, Executive Director of GLJ-ILRF. “Brands play a critical role by using commercial relationships and business leverage to reduce the existing risk of GBVH, incentivizing suppliers to comply with remediation. We urge all brands to sign similar agreements, join this model and replicate it across the industry.”

H&M recognizes the critical role of enabling collaboration between all stakeholders to reduce risks of GBVH, including at the intersection of gender and caste as well as of freedom of association violations, that contribute to GBVH in the garment industry. H&M wants to use its size and scale to influence the industry in a positive way. H&M will, for example, contribute financially to develop awareness trainings for management and workers, an independent and trustworthy grievance mechanisms run by an independent assessor, and a framework for measuring and reporting impact. The ambition is to find solutions that can be brought to scale at industry level.

In signing this agreement, all stakeholders honor the loss of a young garment worker, TTCU member, and Eastman employee, Jeyasre Kathrivel, whose life was tragically cut short as a result of GBVH. We honor her legacy through this important agreement and ultimately meaningful change across the garment industry.

Foley Hoag attorneys, Gare Smith and Allison Anderson, advised Eastman Exports, and worked with TTCU, AFWA and GLJ-ILRF on this agreement.

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Eastman Exports Global Clothing Private Limited is one of the leading apparel manufacturers in India, perfectly positioned to stay on the top in the fashion world as the most preferred and trusted knitwear manufacturers in India. Eastman’s journey from a modest growth at the time of its inception to its current business volume is a complete testimony to the clarity of vision and the quantum of energy that propels the company. For more information, contact: Alagesan Senniappan alagesan@eastmanexports.com; Poornakala poornakala@eastmanexports.com

Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Workers Union (TTCU) is an independent, Dalit women-led trade union of textile workers organizing to end GBVH, wage theft, and caste-based violence in garment factories.  For more information, contact: Thivya Rakini info.ttcu@gmail.com

Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) is an Asian labour-led global labour and social alliance across garment producing countries (such as India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Bangladesh) and consumer regions (USA and Europe) for addressing poverty level wages, gender-based violence, and freedom of association in global garment production networks. For more information, contact Nandita Shivakumar nandita.s@asia.floorwage.org.

Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ – ILRF) is a non-governmental organization that works transnationally to advance policies and laws that protect decent work; to strengthen freedom of association and workers’ ability to advocate for their rights; and to hold corporations accountable for labor rights violations in their supply chains. For more contact Sahiba Gill, sahibagill@globallaborjustice.org.

Foley Hoag, LLP is counsel to Eastman. Legal services were provided by the Global Business & Human Rights practice, which helps clients align their business practices with the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. For more information contact Gare Smith, gsmith@foleyhoag.com.

For Immediate Release

May 22, 2022

Contact: Rachel Cohen, racohen78@gmail.com, 917-370-8464

Labor Groups Supporting Indian Garment Workers Call On More Global Brands to Join Landmark Dindigul Agreement to End GBVH

Guardian Breaks Story on Gender Based Violence and Harassment Endemic in Clothing Supply Chains

Tirupur, India– The Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU), the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), and Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF) today called on more global brands to join H&M in signing the groundbreaking Dindigul Agreement to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence and Harassment (GBVH), which will empower 5,000 mostly female Dalit workers to protect themselves and their coworkers in spinning mills and garment cut and sew facilities.

New reporting in the Guardian details how global fashion supply chains are built on widespread gender-based violence and harassment across Asia.

TTCU, AFWA and GLJ-ILRF have a long history of organizing with and supporting the workers who are fighting back. We launched the Justice for Jeyasre campaign in 2021 when Jeyasre Kathiravel, a young garment worker and union member in TTCU was murdered after facing months of sexual harassment by her supervisor. 

Thanks to the movement we built with workers in India and around the world, in April, factory owner Eastman Exports Global Clothing Private Limited, the TTCU, AFWA and GLJ-ILRF, along with H&M Group (H&M), announced the Dindigul Agreement, a set of accords that jointly commit all parties to work together to eradicate GBVH and discrimination based on caste, or migration status; support women workers in collectively detecting, remediating and preveniting GBVH on the shopfloor, to increase transparency; and to develop a culture of mutual respect in the garment factory and beyond.

In the Dindigul Agreement, H&M has agreed to a regular review mechanism in deciding its level of sourcing based on Eastman’s fulfillment of the provisions of the agreement, other brands, especially those who were sourcing from Eastman at the time of Jeyasre’s death should follow suit, meet with us and sign on. 

A joint statement from the original signing parties is available here

Labor stakeholders are also in dialogue with other brands sourcing from Eastman Exports’ Natchi facilities in the past two years including Walmart, M&S, and Authentic Brands Group (which owns Lucky Brand Jeans, Brooks Brothers, Forever 21, Izod, and others)- along with BlackRock a major investor in Authentic- about joining the agreement consistent with responsible business practices under the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights.  Together with the labor stakeholders and Eastman, brands and investors who join the agreement would be contributing towards a model for the industry. 

When reporting workplace problems leads brands to pull orders, working women  are left to choose between sexual harassment or unemployment.  All brands who say they want their supply chain free of gender based violence and harassment now have a clear choice to source from units covered by the Dindigul agreement or to talk with us about its expansion.” said Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, Executive Director of GLJ-ILRF. “For brand investors like BlackRock, this is also a concrete way to make their environmental, social and governance commitments (ESG)  commitments real.” 

“For the first time, workers have an agreement that empowers us to fight back collectively against violence and harassment at work. Garment workers have long felt that we have to accept harassment as part of our jobs– we get fired by our employers when we speak out against it and the big brands whose clothing we make, don’t take responsibility. Under this agreement, Eastman commits to zero tolerance for GBVH and to working with us to remediate any harassment that occurs. H&M commits to use business leverage create support and accountability for that promise. More brands should follow their lead and sign on. Let it be a model for India and the globe so all garment workers are empowered and protected,” said Jeeva M, General Secretary, TTCU.

“The Dindigul Agreement is transformative because it incentivises suppliers to protect workers rights and eliminate GBVH. Now is the time for more global fashion companies to be part of the solution to violence and harassment by sourcing from factories that confront these issues head on as Eastman has agreed to do. Suppliers and brands should support worker-led processes to address GBVH and recognize workers’ rights to organize in unions. Too often, when abuses are brought to light, brands will try to save their reputation by pulling out of the factory, victimizing workers a second time as they lose their jobs,” said Anannya Bhattacharjee, AFWA International Coordinator.

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Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Workers Union (TTCU) is an independent, Dalit women-led trade union of textile workers organizing to end GBVH, wage theft, and caste-based violence in garment factories.  

 

Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) is an Asian labour-led global labour and social alliance across garment producing countries (such as India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Bangladesh) and consumer regions (USA and Europe) for addressing poverty level wages, gender-based violence, and freedom of association in global garment production networks. 

 

Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ – ILRF) is a non-governmental organization that works transnationally to advance policies and laws that protect decent work; to strengthen freedom of association and workers’ ability to advocate for their rights; and to hold corporations accountable for labor rights violations in their supply chains.