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Luxury brand fails on union rights in Turkey

31 January, 2013Producing for Ermenegildo Zegna, four members of IndustriALL’s Turkish affiliate were dismissed by textile company Ismaco in December and January for joining a trade union. Send your letter of protest today.

Ismaco Amsterdam B.V. is a Dutch-based company producing luxury shirts for worldwide-known brand Ermenegildo Zegna. The company has production facilities in Spain, Switzerland, Mexico, China and Turkey, which is located at a Free Zone in Tuzla, Istanbul with around 370 employees. The Turkish plant of Ismaco produces 600,000 pieces annually which corresponds to 65 per cent of the shirts of Ermenegildo Zegna.

Towards the end of 2012, workers at Ismaco decided to joint IndustriALL Global Union’s Turkish affiliate Deri-Is because the company did not increase wages over last three years, worsened working conditions, and used policies of discrimination and violence against the workforce.

When the company management heard of the unionization efforts at the plant, managers started to call workers to individual meetings to force them to resign or not to join Deri-Is. Ismaco management then targeted pioneering members with threats and intimidations, and finally dismissed union members Cengiz Taşkesen, Fikriye Akgül and Öznur Fazlıoğlu on 18 December 2013 and Munevver Uyar on 8 January 2013.

Send your letter of protest the company here and support the dismissed union members who have been picketing outside of the Free Zone in a tent in freezing winter conditions, as they are not allowed to enter. Three out of four dismissed workers are female while one is a disabled man.

Factory manager Francesco Lasorte gathered all the workers on 19 December announcing that the workers do not need a union, and declared some wage increases, granting a one off lump-sum bonus, organizing social events, as well as the establishment of a fake employee representation system to try and prevent the organizing drive inside the company.

On 25 December, Ismaco managers forced all workers to sign a paper saying “we do not want a trade union at our factory”. Company managers attempted to discredit the union by spreading rumors that Deri-Is is linked with illegal groups, and anyone joining the union would be considered as terrorist.

Deri-Is is actively campaigning on behalf of the workers and is getting support from community, trade unions and NGOs. Their demands are:

  • Reinstatement of the dismissed workers;
  • An end to the hostile attitudes of managers against union members and workers wanting to join the union;
  • Recognition of Deri-Is as the union representing workers to negotiate problems at the factory;
  • Creation of an environment inside the plant that respects freedom of association as a basic right and ensures that workers can freely become and remain a union member and execute union activities.

Kemal Özkan, Assistant General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, said, “Ermenegildo shirts are sold with very high prices in big shopping malls, but the company is a long way from respecting fundamental rights for its employees. This is not acceptable and our global union family will continue to campaign until the situation at Ismaco plant in Turkey is improved.”