The complaint stated that G Star’s Indian suppliers, Fibres and Fabrics International (FFI) and Jeans Knit Pvt. Ltd. (JKPL), have violated labour rights, including freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, payment of a living wage, discrimination in employment, working hours, overtime work, occupational health and safety, punishment, abuse, harassment, and lack of legally binding employment relations.
The NGOs requested that the Dutch NCP mediate a dialogue with G-Star and its Indian suppliers in order to develop a remediation plan to address the labour rights violations. The complainants also encouraged FFI and JKPL to engage in a dialogue with local NGOs and labour support organisations about the remediation plan.
At the time of filing, FFI/JKPL were also producing for Ann Taylor, Armani, Gap, Guess, Mexx and RaRe.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
- Version 2000 Chapter I
- Version 2000 Chapter I Paragraph I.7
- Version 2000 Chapter I Paragraph I.8
- Version 2000 Chapter II
- Version 2000 Chapter II Paragraph II.10
- Version 2000 Chapter II Paragraph II.2
- Version 2000 Chapter II Paragraph II.7
- Version 2000 Chapter II Paragraph II.8
- Version 2000 Chapter IV
- Version 2000 Chapter IV Paragraph IV.1 Subparagraph IV.1.A
- Version 2000 Chapter IV Paragraph IV.2 Subparagraph IV.2.C
- Version 2000 Chapter IV Paragraph IV.4 Subparagraph IV.4.B
- Version 2000 Chapter IV Paragraph IV.7
In November 2006 the NCP accepted the complaint after a number of informal meetings with the parties involved.. The NCP thereby agreed that an “investment nexus” exist given the parties’ direct and well-established relationship.
The NCP tried to bring the parties together for a mediation process. However, G-Star practically refused to enter into the NCP process in which all parties would have to agree on the outcome. Although no formal mediation could be started, the NCP nonetheless organised an informal meeting between the parties in June 2007. After the escalation of the situation in India, where an Indian court charged the Dutch NGOs and their internet providers with criminal defamation, it was suggested that a more prominent role for the Dutch government was required.
In December 2007, G-Star unexpectedly announced that it would sever relations with FFI, at which time CCC and ICN expressed their concerns that ‘cutting and running’ is not the solution of the problems at FFI/JKPL and urged G-Star to develop and implement a responsible exit strategy.
In February 2007, the NCP held further separate, informal meetings with the complainants and G-Star. Also in February 2007, a civil judge in Bangalore reinforced a restraining order on five Indian labour organisations that was first issued in July 2006. The restraining order was a heavy blow to the fundamental right to freedom of speech and freedom of association in India.
Subsequently, upon request of the Dutch Minister for Economic Affairs, former Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers was involved as mediator. In January 2008, Mr Lubbers brokered an agreement between the parties. This agreement is to pave the way for a sustainable mechanism to solve possible future labour conflicts at FFI/JKPL. An important outcome of the mediation is that, with the consent of all parties, an ombudsman will be installed who will follow up on complaints from FFI/JKPL employees and labour rights organisations. After some deliberation, all parties concerned agreed upon Dr. Justice V.S. Malimath, former Chief Justice of Karnataka and Kerala High Courts and ex-member of the Indian National Human Rights Commission, to take the role of ombudsman. A “Committee of Custodians” will serve as a sounding board for the ombudsman and safeguard that all parties adhere to the agreement. The Committee will include Mr Lubbers, Mr Ashok Khosla, an Indian national who has previously worked for the Indian government and the United Nations, as well as Mr. A.P. Venkateswaran, former ambassador for India in China and Russia. The ombudsman will aim for solutions that are acceptable to all parties. When dealing with complaints confidentiality is crucial. The ombudsperson will regularly report on the processing of complaints.
G-Star has repaired its relations with FFI/JKPL. CCC and ICN have put an end to their public campaigning against G-Star and its supplier FFI/JKPL. Another crucial element of the Lubbers-brokered agreement is the withdrawal of all court cases undertaken by FFI/JKPL against Indian and Dutch parties. So far, FFI/JKPL has withdrawn the case against CCC, ICN and their internet providers, and the cases against Indian organisations and individuals are supposed to be withdrawn very soon.
The Dutch NCP did not play a role in reaching this agreement. When Mr Lubbers got involved, the NCP announced that the mediation by Lubbers made the NCP procedure redundant. CCC and ICN did not agree with this point of view, and have expressed reservations against the position of the NCP.
The main arguments put forward by CCC and ICN are the following:
– The NCP was asked to assess compliance with the OECD Guidelines in a specific instance; by ending the procedure in this way, this has not been done.
– The complaint by CCC and ICN addressed the role of the Dutch buyer G-Star, while the mediation by Mr Lubbers focused on the conflict that had arisen between the garment producer FFI and CCC and ICN. This is a fundamental difference.
– The complaint filed by ICN and CCC concerned a clear period in time (September 2005 to October 2006), whereas Mr Lubbers only started his mediation in December 2007;
– Central to the compliant filed by CCC and ICN is the question of G-Star’s supply chain responsibility. The NCP could and should have offered a setting to address G-Star concerning this matter.
– All parties concerned, including CCC, ICN, G-Star and the NCP itself, have invested a great deal of time and energy in the procedure. It is most unsatisfactory to end the procedure without an answer to the main question (whether or not the OECD Guidelines were complied with).
Despite these arguments, CCC and ICN accepted the closure of the NCP procedure the light of the agreement reached on 28 January 2008. The NCP published a final statement concerning the procedural aspects of how the complaint was handled. The statement did not deal with the content of the complaint. Upon request, CCC and ICN provided input to the statement.
- Company in violation
- Affected people
- Date rejected / concluded
- 28 January 2008