April 21, 2016

Sam Nelson

A Common Thread of Unjust Conditions at Hugo Boss

Hugo Boss, the multibillion-dollar luxury fashion giant, is under fire for a string of labor violations at its massive factory in Turkey. The Fair Labor Association (FLA), an auditing group made up of universities, NGOs and companies, including Hugo Boss, recently issued a report based on its monitoring of working conditions at the factory and found a number of serious violations around hours, pay and the right to form a union. The 36 violations cited are severe enough that the FLA has recommended immediate action on many of them.

It’s no wonder the men and women who sew Hugo Boss–branded garments and accessories have been actively trying to come together in union for a fair return on their work.

According to the report, Hugo Boss violated Turkish and international labor law, the FLA’s rules, and its own internal corporate social responsibility (CSR) guidelines. It’s significant that a CSR auditing group unearthed a laundry list of labor violations at the Hugo Boss factory given that Oxfam and other groups have critiqued CSR programs for often ignoring labor issues because of the inherent conflict of interest.

In interviews held with people who work at the factory in June 2014, common threads appear. Husbands who join the union and whose spouses are pregnant are often targeted for firing or discipline. Women who are pregnant reported having to stand through regular shifts and overtime with no sitting allowed. People report management speeds up the production line to discipline the plant’s employees and to make overbearing quotas.  Management also interrogated individuals they suspected were union supporters.

Worse, factory management fired 290 people in 2011 on the basis of performance issues. The Fair Labor Association report concluded in actuality Hugo Boss dismissed them because they joined forces to create a better workplace. Thankfully, a Turkish union of working people has taken the factory to court for the unjust firings, and the cases that have been settled so far have overwhelmingly been resolved in favor of working people.

So far, Hugo Boss has rejected a number of remedies recommended by the Fair Labor Association, including respecting the right of working people to stand together. The executives and CEOs who wear Hugo Boss suits have the freedom to negotiate the terms and conditions of their salaries. The people who make these suits and make Hugo Boss successful deserve the same freedom to negotiate for the hard work they put in.

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