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Hugo Boss union-busting in Turkey "damages brand"

19 May, 2016Hugo Boss shareholders heard about the luxury fashion brand’s illegal treatment of union members in Turkey at the company’s annual general meeting in Stuttgart, Germany, today.

Hugo Boss has a long-running anti-union policy in Izmir, which has seen many unionized workers illegally sacked since IndustriALL Global Union’s Turkish affiliate, Teksif, began organizing at the factory in 2011.

“Hugo Boss’ anti-union behaviour in Izmir is a threat to shareholder value. The ongoing violations have generated negative media coverage. Over 107,000 potential Hugo Boss customers have signed a petition demanding that Hugo Boss respect workers’ rights. The longer these violations in Izmir continue, the greater the risk that the Hugo Boss brand will be damaged,” stated IndustriALL Organizing and Campaigns Director Adam Lee to the meeting.

Of the 163 lawsuits for unfair dismissals since October 2011, the Turkish courts have sided with workers in 76 per cent of finalized cases. The Fair Labor Association (FLA), which Hugo Boss is affiliated to, also concluded in a January 2016 report that many of these dismissals were related to unionization efforts.

Despite the court decisions and FLA report, Hugo Boss claims there are no problems in Izmir.

“Hugo Boss has not changed its behaviour in Izmir. The company fired Suleyman Budak and Abdullah Satan late last year and Meryem Bicakci in March this year for their union activity. Bullying and harassment of union activists at the Hugo Boss factory in Izmir is as bad as it’s ever been,” Lee told shareholders.

In response, Hugo Boss CEO Mark Langer said that Hugo Boss respected and recognized Teksif and has invited the union to a stakeholders’ meeting.

Earlier this week, Hugo Boss met Teksif in Istanbul but contrary to Hugo Boss’ claims at the shareholders’ meeting, no agreement has been reached.

“Talking is not enough – we want actions not words,” said IndustriALL general secretary, Jyrki Raina. “Hugo Boss has failed to meet the commitments it’s made to us in the past and failed to reach an agreement with our trade union affiliate, Teksif.

“We call on new Hugo Boss CEO Mark Langer to stop the intimidation and threats against union supporters inside the factory; to reinstate the sacked workers; and to work with IndustriALL and Teksif to resolve the illegal violations at their Izmir factory. We demand justice and respect for fundamental rights, particularly freedom of association.”