India: Major brands respond to allegations supplier Avery Dennison is undermining trade union rights & failing to pay contract workers full entitlements

The International Union League for Brand Responsibility wrote a letter  to  Avery Dennison, a major label supplier, accusing it of undermining freedom of association and trade union rights in Bangalore.  The letter specifically alleges that Avery Dennison keeps workers on contracts to avoid paying them their full entitlements and will not recognise their trade union. It also alleges that Avery Dennison dismissed 52 contract workers in retaliation for trade union activity.

In June 2018 we invited Avery Dennison to respond.  Their response is provided below in which they deny the allegations.  The International Union League for Brand Responsibility subsequently submitted a rejoinder in response which you can read below.

Latest development - brands respond

In August 2018 the International Union League for Brand Responsibility asked us to seek responses to letters it had sent to three brands: Levi Strauss, H&M and Gap, which source from Avery Dennison on the ongoing alleged abuses.  It also asked us to seek a response from Avery Dennison to a follow up letter it sent the company regarding the situation.  Responses from the brands and Avery Dennison are below.

Union letter to Levi  Strauss   

Union letter to H&M   

Union letter to Gap Inc.  

Union letter to Avery Dennison 

Levi Strauss response

H&M response

Gap Inc. response

 Avery Dennison response

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Company response
4 September 2018

Avery Dennison Response to Union letter of 26 Jul 2018

Author: Avery Dennison

Avery Dennison and GATWU, with NTUI as its representative, are currently engaged in a structured mediation process (in addition to the process before the Deputy Labour Commissioner, Bangalore Region 1). Our intent is to work with GATWU to resolve concerns as quickly as possible. Both parties agreed to confidentiality for the mediation discussions, but it is clear that some information has been improperly shared. While GATWU is pushing for automatic union recognition, our primary focus of the mediation is to resolve the employee issues. After the employee issues are resolved, we are open to discussing a potential process for recognition. This process will require due diligence and careful consideration

Download the full document here

Company response
3 September 2018

Levi Strauss' response to Union letter of 26 Jul 2018

Author: Levi Strauss

For more than a year, Levi Strauss & Co. has not been doing business with Avery Dennison (India) Pvt. Ltd., the factory in question. However, we do work with Avery Dennison’s global business in other countries. We have collaborated with several other apparel brands on the issues surrounding Avery Dennison India and have jointly urged Avery Dennison directly to resolve the issues and concerns raised by the Garment and Textiles Workers Union (GATWU). We will continue to monitor the situation and work towards collaborative solutions.

Company response
27 August 2018

H&M response to Union letter of 26 Jul 2018

Author: H&M

H&M Sustainability Commitment clearly state that our suppliers should adhere to all national laws and international standards in regards to employment, wages and Freedom of Association. Any situation where supplier fail to do so, we would demand and engage to ensure that any such situation is resolved.

 The conflict at Avery Denison involving trade union GATWU has been going on since beginning of this year. H&M together with other brands have had continuous dialogue with the two parties, and repeatedly sought to find a solution to the conflict. Despite those efforts no solution was reached, therefore several brands asked Ethical Trade Initiative as a neutral organisation, to step in and help with mediation.  Below is the latest report from the meeting between ETI representative, Avery Denison and GATWU. We are positively optimistic that this will  lead to  resolving of the conflict. We will closely follow the process.

Meeting between GATWU/NTUI and Avery Dennison in Bangalore took place the 16th August. The objective of this meeting was to see if there was enough common ground and a willingness by both parties to undertake a structured mediation process to resolve the issues raised by NTUI/GATWU.  The meeting went ahead and both parties agreed to a structured mediation process. Furthermore they have agreed to work quickly to address these issues which have been ongoing since the beginning of the year. The issues revolve around four interlinked issues – 1) Regularisation of contract workers, 2) Equal pay for equal work, 3) minimum wage for contract workers and 4) Recognition of GATWU union and whether they have reached the threshold for formal recognition.”

Company response
24 August 2018

Gap Inc. response to Union letter of 26 Jul 2018

Author: Gap Inc.

We are aware of the ongoing issues that have been highlighted at two of Avery Dennison India PVT’s facilities in Bangalore, and have been actively engaged in trying to bring about a resolution to these issues since they were first brought to our attention in September 2017...Over the past twelve months, we have sought to encourage Avery Dennison and the labor organizations and unions representing these workers to engage in good-faith dialogue to fully and sustainably resolve the issues that were highlighted in the International Union League for Brand Responsibility’s letter. That the process has been so slowmoving has been of deep frustration to us, which is why we have sought to work with other Avery Dennison customers, as well as the Ethical Trade Initiative, to expedite a resolution...

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26 July 2018

Union letter to Avery Dennison 26 Jul 2018

Author: Intl. Union League for Brand Responsibility

We have been informed by the Garment and Textile Workers’ Union (GATWU) that not only have these violations not been solved, but they have been escalated. On top of the illegal dismissals and other unfair working conditions, which have been two of the initial reasons that we are contacting AD, we see a dramatic and very worrying increase in union busting techniques in the factory, endangering not only the workers' rights but even their safety. The developments before and during the mediation process between AD and the New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI, representing GATWU in the mediation), led by the Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI) have shown the ambiguous position of AD in pushing this case forward. Using the pretext of GATWU organising a rightful and legitimate meeting with the workers outside the factory on July 13, AD has decided to drop out of the mediation process. ETI has proposed two rather vague and easy to interpret conditions: a cooling off period of 14 days and showing good faith while in the mediation process. As can be seen below, when looking specifically at the demands of the workers, these conditions have already been disrespected by AD and do not seem to have any added value to achieving justice for the workers. For your easy access, the demands and clarifying information on each demand have been added below. Please act now!

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26 July 2018

Union letter to Gap Inc. 26 Jul 2018

Author: Intl. Union League for Brand Responsibility

We are following up on our communication in April and June. In the past, we have contacted you about the ongoing labor rights violations in company Avery Dennison...As you already know, in these factories, temporary contract workers are being treated unfairly, receiving wages lower than the legal minimum wage, but also lower than the wages of the workers with permanent contracts, less access to various employment benefits...In addition, there have been attempts to prevent contract workers from joining or forming a union in the above-mentioned factories, via harassment and/or denial of contract. Over 53 contract workers have also been dismissed. It is now time for Gap to take action.

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Article
26 July 2018

Union letter to H&M 26 Jul 2018

Author: Intl. Union League for Brand Responsibility

We are following up on our communication in April and June...about the ongoing labor rights violations in company Avery Dennison...As you already know, in these factories, temporary contract workers are being treated unfairly, receiving wages lower than the legal minimum wage, but also lower than the wages of the workers with permanent contracts, less access to various employment benefits...In addition, there have been attempts to prevent contract workers from joining or forming an union in the above-mentioned factories, via harassment and/or denial of contract. Over 53 contract workers have also been dismissed.. [I]t is vital that you contact AD directly and make it clear that you will not tolerate such injustices! 

Download the full document here

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26 July 2018

Union letter to Levi Strauss 26 Jul 2018

Author: Intl. Union League for Brand Responsibility

We are following up on our communication in April and June. In the past, we have contacted you about the ongoing labor rights violations in company Avery Dennison...As you already know, in these factories, temporary contract workers are being treated unfairly, receiving wages lower than the legal minimum wage, but also lower than the wages of the workers with permanent contracts, less access to various employment benefits...In addition, there have been attempts to prevent contract workers from joining or forming a union in the above-mentioned factories, via harassment and/or denial of contract. Over 53 contract workers have also been dismissed. It is now time for Levi’s to take action.

Download the full document here

NGO rejoinder
19 June 2018

Rejoinder by Intl. Union League for Brand Responsibility

Author: Intl. Union League for Brand Responsibility

"We are disappointed to hear that instead of doing the right thing and taking steps to remediate the illegal and unethical actions taken against employees of Avery Dennison India Pvt. Ltd., Avery Dennison has chosen instead to lie about the basic facts on the ground. To say that they are following applicable Indian laws to employ short-term contract workers is an insult to their contract employees, some of whom have been working for over a decade in contract positions, doing the same work, necessary to the functioning of the business, as their permanent counterparts. The audits they allude to should have uncovered this fact, and in absence of thorough audits, when their employees bring the behavior of Avery Dennison India Pvt. Ltd. to their attention, we are shocked that their first response is to deny any allegations to the faces of those who are living with the consequences of Avery Dennison India Pvt. Ltd. management's illegal actions. Unfortunately this complete lack of accountability forces us to reach out to Avery Dennison's customers, each of whom have a Code of Conduct regarding their suppliers that Avery Dennison is clearly violating. We urge Avery Dennison to rethink their position, rehire all illegally dismissed workers, regularize all contract employees employed since before January 2017, and formally meet with GATWU." 

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5 June 2018

Intl. Union League for Brand Responsibility letter to Avery Dennison

Author: Intl. Union League for Brand Responsibility

Despite your stated requirement that “suppliers and sub-contractors must comply with all applicable local laws and regulations”in your “Global Supplier Standards”, in your factories, temporary contract workers are being treated unfairly, receiving wages lower than the legal minimum wage, and also lower than the wages of the workers with permanent contracts, despite performing the same work for years with no break...In addition, there have been attempts to prevent contract workers from joining or forming a union in the above-mentioned factories, via harassment and/or management refusal to negotiate. Over 52 contract workers have also been dismissed illegally in response to the workers joining a union. These workers are unjustly treated. Indian law, International Labour Organisation conventions, and your stated commitment to human rights and fair labour practices are being violated! You have the biggest role to play in correcting this injustice.

Download the full document here