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Labor Department Raises “Serious” Concerns for Workers in Honduras

Honduras may have come on the radar as a hotspot for near-shoring, but according to the Labor Department, the country has some workers’ rights issues to sort out.

Gildan and Fruit of the Loom shifted production to Honduras last year, and Delta Apparel consolidated fabric production for basic, blank T-shirts there. Fruit of the Loom said it made the decision “to align its global supply chain to allow the company to leverage existing investments and meet customer requirements more timely and cost effectively.”

But despite more moves there, in a recently released report, the Labor Department raised concerns about the effectiveness of labor law enforcement in Honduras in keeping with the labor chapter of the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), which went into effect in 2006.

The report, a response to a 78-page submission filed by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and 26 Honduran unions and civil society organizations, alleged that the Honduran government failed to protect and promote internationally recognized labor rights, “in a manner affecting trade between the Parties,” based on commitments under CAFTA-DR.

Following a full review of the report and a further look into working conditions at the country’s facilities, the Labor Department found that workers in Honduras weren’t adequately afforded the right to associate, to organize and bargain collectively; the minimum employment age for the employment of children and prohibition of the worst forms of child labor wasn’t properly enforced, nor were acceptable working conditions with respect to minimum wages, hours worked and occupational health and safety.

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The report named seven manufacturing factories it found to have labor rights violations, including Hanesbrands, Dickies de Honduras, Pinehurst, Petralex and A. tion Honduras.

At Dickies de Honduras, which produces for the Dickies brand, workers that began organizing a union were reportedly dismissed from their posts. At Delta Apparel’s Ceiba Textiles garment factory, founding members of the SITRAMCETEX union were pressured to resign. At Hanesbrands, which operates 11 factories in Honduras that produce the company’s Hanes, Champion and Playtex brands, among others, established agreements between management and non-unionized workers, that according to the Office of Trade and Labor Affairs (OTLA), included anti-union clauses and noted dismissals of workers trying to form a union.

“To build an economy that works for everyone, we must stand up for workers at home and around the world. When necessary, we must act to ensure compliance with the labor provisions of our trade agreements,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said. “This report is an important opportunity to strengthen our collaboration with Honduras in addressing critical labor rights concerns.

For the year ended December, 2014, Honduras exported $2.59 billion worth of textiles and apparel to the U.S., a 3.48% increase over the prior year period, according to data from the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA). Knit apparel accounts for the largest portion of the county’s exports.

Carol Pier, the deputy undersecretary for International Affairs and Carlos Romero, deputy assistant U.S. trade representative, traveled to Honduras last week for the report’s release. The officials reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to assist the country in addressing these labor concerns and offered recommendations to the Honduran government, including imposing sanctions for labor law violations, which are expected to be addressed within 12 months.

The Labor Department also announced last week that it awarded $7 million in a cooperative agreement to World Vision to put a project in place to combat child labor and improve labor rights and working conditions in Honduras.