BCGEU spotlights human rights at Gildan Activewear AGM

May 29th, 2024

The British Columbia General Employees’ Union (BCGEU) has put forward a human rights shareholder proposal for Gildan Activewear’s AGM.

Gildan, an apparel manufacturer, owns several large activewear brands, including American Apparel, Under Armour and New Balance.

BCGEU’s proposal calls on the board to prepare a report assessing effectiveness of the company’s existing human rights risk infrastructure.

This proposal will be voted on at Gildan Activewear’s AGM this week.

In a notice to shareholders urging them to vote in favour of the proposal, BCGEU said: “Recent events surrounding the closure of a Gildan sewing factory in Honduras have raised questions about the company’s human rights risk infrastructure. Safety risks including gender-based violence during transportation to and from work add to these concerns.”

It said that while Gildan has publicly committed to upholding human rights and outlines its assessment processes in various disclosures, “the experiences shared by many workers suggest a misalignment with these commitments”.

Gildan is currently one of the largest employers in Honduras and BCGEU noted 30% of Gildan’s global operating facilities are located there, with its factory in Choloma, Honduras producing 60% of its product.

The company announced it would close its Honduras factory last year and said it planned to move its garment supply chain into Nicaragua and Bangladesh. BCGEU pointed out this held poorer human and labour rights records.

The trade union also highlighted that the closure impacted 2,700 primarily female workers.

The closure announcement came after the Supreme Court of Justice of Honduras ruled in January 2023 in favour of five Gildan San Miguel workers, who had been dismissed by the company in 2017.

The Honduran Supreme Court ruled that Gildan had unjustly dismissed workers and violated their labour rights. The court ordered the workers’ reinstatement along with back pay.

BCGEU’s proposal also noted that Gildan Activewear’s actions raise questions about its compliance with Honduran labour law, Fair Labor Association benchmarks and international labour standards.

Last Updated: 30 May 2024