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21 Okt 2022

Asia Floor Wage Alliance, Eastman Exports, Global Labor Justice - International Labor Rights Forum, Tamil Nadu Textile & Common Labour Union

India: US government withdraws import ban on Natchi Apparels following evidence of remediation around and absence of forced labour, incl. binding agreement on gender-based violence & harassment

"October 2022 Joint Statement: TTCU, AFWA, GLJ - ILRF and Eastman Exports", October 2022

An unprecedented collaboration between apparel manufacturer Eastman Exports and labour stakeholders TTCU, AFWA and GLJ-ILRF led to the historic reversal of a decision by the US government, thereby protecting both businesses and thousands of jobs for women workers...

On July 29, 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a Withhold Release Order (WRO) against Natchi Apparels (P) Ltd, over concerns of forced labor in its facilities. The WRO prevented merchandise produced in Natchi Apparels and other units of its parent company Eastman Exports, from being imported into the United States; this would have had disastrous consequences for the industry, as well as for thousands of workers employed in the facilities. This decision of the US government was swiftly and successfully withdrawn, in September 2022, as Natchi Apparels, showed strong evidence of the absence of and remediation around all five indicators of forced labor as identified by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Although such quick overturning of a WRO has been unheard of, it was made possible due to two pertinent reasons. Firstly, Eastman Exports had signed the enforceable and binding Dindigul Agreement to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence and Harassment in April, 2022, with the local trade union Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU), Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) and Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF), enabling worker-led collective action to address gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH) at Natchi Apparels. Secondly, the Dindigul Agreement created a framework of engagement between Eastman Exports and the labour organisations to address all issues of GBVH and freedom of association (FOA), leading to both parties working jointly to submit evidence to the US government, indicating meaningful change at Natchi Apparels...

The Dindigul Agreement, which came in the aftermath of the murder of Dalit garment worker Jeyasre Kathiravel, adheres to the standards set by the ILO Fundamental Conventions and provides protection for workers at Natchi against gender, migrant and caste-based violence and discrimination. It recognises that freedom of association and collective action are integral to eliminating gender-based violence, adopts the ILO Violence and Harassment Convention’s (C-190) definition of GBVH, and strengthens the Internal Complaints Committees (ICCs) created under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) Act in India...