Battle for Vietnamese Workers Continues

In the Harvard International Review journal’s just-published Summer edition, researcher Jeff Ballinger’s article “How Civil Society Can Help [Sweatshop Workers]” highlighted CPVW’s work, including its success in forcing Nike to stop using CSR as a mask hiding horrendous working conditions for thousands of its contract migrant workers in Malaysia, and to pay them back millions of dollars.

Harvard International Review article cites CPVW’s anti-sweatshop work

‘Human trafficking on a massive scale‘

Ballinger wrote “Workers returning from Malaysia informed CPVW’s correspondents about cheating and horrendous living conditions at a t-shirt factory producing for Nike. The nongovernmental organization then turned the controversy into a minor scandal in Australia, and Nike immediately put the issue on the ‘fast track’ for settlement, which contrasts sharply with the contemporaneous case in Honduras, which dragged on for two years. One possible explanation for the disparate treatment is the media, since the Vietnamese migrants’ story was presented as a case of ‘human trafficking on a massive scale.’”

The 6-page article continued on page 57 about workers’ backpay: “Nike’s contract-workforce in Malaysia numbered around 10,000 at the time; 1,100 foreign workers at the t-shirt factory are receiving about $2,000 each as restitution (paid in installments over nearly three years)”.

In exposing the scandal on Australia’s Channel 7, CPVW worked with 2 Australian unions, the textile clothing footwear TCFUA, and transport workers’ TWU.

Glaringly blind

“A CPVW activist recently expressed frustration that Nike has for years had ‘independent’ inspectors inspect its contract factories in Malaysia. How could it be, then, that workers worked under ‘indentured servitude’ conditions which were clear for all to see, but inspections never disclosed this fact?”

It seems Nike is not the only company whose “independent inspectors” are glaringly blind to obvious problems. CPVW is investigating reports that in June 2011, Vietnam’s police, partly using information from a network of informers hired by the state-run union VGCL, arrested about 20 strike leaders following a strike by 90,000 at Pou Yuen, an Adidas contract factory near Saigon. Adidas’ own “inspectors” have dismissed these reported arrests as rumours.

Jailed in Vietnam for leading a strike

Ballinger wrote “Being based outside of Vietnam, the CPVW is free to advocate on behalf of several independent union activists now jailed in Vietnam” . A case in point is Chuong-Hung-Hanh, 3 activists currently jailed for up to 9 years for leading a strike in 2010 by 10,000 at a shoe factory. Hanh, a petite girl, is now deaf in one year after burly prison guards and police hit her hard on the face many times.

(Jeff Ballinger is former National Director of Social Democrats USA and is one of our country’s biggest experts on sweatshops.  See the site for information about this cause.)

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