Despite a global campaign against union busting, German fashion brand Roy Robson has escalated its attacks on IndustriALL Global Union affiliate Teksif at its factory in Izmir, Turkey. IndustriALL has filed a complaint against the company to the German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles for violation of ILO Conventions 87 and 98.
On 18 April, the company fired Eser Yılmaz. Eser is the 13th union member to be dismissed by the company this year. Eser joined Teksif in January, and was an active union member. Since joining the union, she has been placed under tremendous pressure, and called to account for “poor performance”, after which her contract was terminated.
This follows the dismissal in January 2018 of eleven members of Teksif from the factory in Izmir. IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches wrote to the company to demand the reinstatement of the workers. IndustriALL also sought a meeting with the company.
When this was refused, IndustriALL launched a LabourStart campaign. Almost 8,000 people have now written to the company, demanding that they respect workers’ rights.
Roy Robson is a member of an industry partnership for sustainable textiles, the Bündnis für nachhaltige Textilien, that aims to improve social, ecological and economic conditions in the supply chain. IndustriALL filed a complaint with the partnership, copied to the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development.
The complaint points out that Roy Robson fired workers for union activity, in violation of ILO Conventions, Turkish labour law, the company’s own code of conduct, and its roadmap under the partnership.
Speaking in Geneva on 23 April, Teksif international secretary Mustafa Perçin said:
“We are calling on Roy Robson’s Turkish facilities to respect fundamental workers’ rights, and we are calling on everyone for international support.”
IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:
“Roy Robson is engaging in blatant union busting. We will hold the company to account. Workers have a right to join a union, and we will continue to support our affiliate Teksif.”
Workers want a union to resolve issues including very low wages and timed toilet breaks. Pay is cut if a worker spends more than one minute in the toilet, which workers find humiliating.
The company claims that personnel decisions are made on site by the Turkish company, based purely on production need, and that the company has no idea whether staff are union members or not.
However, Roy Robson in Turkey is not a separate company, it is directly owned, and has explicitly engaged in union busting to counter the organizing drive. The company held long, intimidating one on one meetings with workers to convince them not to join the union. IndustriALL has audio recordings and video footage of anti-union meetings.
In Turkey, union members have to register their membership with the government, managed through an online system. The company illegally forced workers to provide their “e-state” passwords so it could identify union members.
IndustriALL has the names of 13 workers, including a pregnant woman, who were dismissed for joining the union. The Turkish Labour Code number 4857 prohibits terminations for union activity, and the case is currently being fought in the labour court.