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Levi's and Kontoor Brands react to reports of sexual abuse in garment factories

By Huw Hughes


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Levi Strauss & Co., Kontoor Brands - which owns Wrangler and Lee jeans - and The Children’s Place have all pledged to crack down on gender-based abuse in Lesotho garment factories after an investigation found women were being coerced into having sex in order to keep their jobs.

The major fashion brands will be taking part in a pilot programme intended to prevent gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH) in five factories owned and operated by Nien Hsing Textile in Lesotho where their clothing is made and where more than 10,000 workers are employed.

They have signed a set of agreements with five Lesotho-based trade unions and women’s rights organizations, US-based Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), Solidarity Center and Workers United to address the issue.

The agreement comes following a WRC investigation documented cases of abuse and harassment in Nien Hsing Textile factories in the country. The two-year investigation published on Thursday found that female workers were regularly coerced into sex with supervisors and managers who promised full-time contracts or promotions if they did so.

Fashion brands vow to end abuse in Lesotho garment factories

The new agreement will see an independent investigative organization receive, identify and deal with any issues in accordance with the Lesotho law.

Nien Hsing Textile will also provide access to its factories for reporting purposes and direct its managers to refrain from any retaliation against workers from participating in the programme or bringing complaints forward. If there are any breaches of the agreement by Nien Hsing Textile, each fashion brand has committed to reduce production orders until Nien Hsing returns to compliance.

In a joint statement, Levi Strauss & Co., The Children’s Place and Kontoor Brands, said: “We are committed to working to protect workers’ rights and foster well-being at third party supplier factories, so that all workers at these facilities, especially female workers, feel safe, valued and empowered.

“We are pleased to be collaborating with Nien Hsing Textile, the Worker Rights Consortium, the Solidarity Center, and local trade unions and women’s advocacy groups in Lesotho on a comprehensive program intended to prevent and combat gender-based violence and harassment in the workplace. We believe this multifaceted program can create lasting change and better working environments at these factories, making a significant positive impact on the entire workforce.”

Rola Abimourched, senior programme director at the Worker Rights Consortium, added: “These breakthrough agreements set an example for the rest of the apparel industry on how to address harassment and abuse in apparel supply chains.”

Photo credit: Pixabay

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