Six international apparel companies sent an open letter to the president of Peru March 4 supporting the repeal of provisions in a decades-old law allowing employers in the garment and textile export sector to hire workers on consecutive short-term employment contracts, reports Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN).

A labor and women’s rights organization that supports the efforts of workers in global supply chains to win improved wages and working conditions, MSN reported in its newsletter that the short-term contracts deny workers job security, seniority rights and other benefits, access to health and pension coverage, and their right to organize and bargain collectively, MSN reports.

New Balance, Nike, PVH Corp (owner of the Calvin Klien, Speedo and Tommy Hilfiger brands), VF Corporation (owner of The North Face, Timberland and Vans brands), 47 Brand, and Life Is Good signed a joint letter urging the Peruvian Government to demonstrate its strong support for social inclusion and decent working conditions by supporting the repeal of the labor provisions of DL 22342, MSN reported.
Decree 22342 establishes a special regime allowing companies that export “non-traditional products” to employ workers on short-term contracts – typically for six months, but often for three months and sometimes for as little as one month – to work on specific export orders, reads MSNs newsletter.

Today, Peru’s booming garment and textile industry exports nearly 40 percent, or approximately $625 million,   in textile products to the United States annually.

MSN quotes Juan-Carlos Vargas of the Peruvian NGO PLADES as saying the use of short-term employment contracts has grown exponentially since the signing of free trade agreements with the United States and Canada.

Using statistics available from the Ministry of Labor, Vargas confirmed that the vast majority of Peru’s largest companies in the sector are contracting 80 to 100 percent of their workforce on short-term contracts, MSN reported.

Addressing Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, the six international apparel companies wrote, While we celebrate Perus success under your leadership, we are also concerned that Decree Law 22342, which allows ‘non-traditional exporting companies to employ workers on fixed-term contracts, acts to encourage and condone violations of labor rights and therefore poses an obstacle to the proper application of our codes of conduct.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has repeatedly asked the government of Peru to amend this law. During his 2011 election campaign, President Ollanta Humala promised to abolish the decree, yet there has been no concrete action since his election, and employers continue to speak out against repealing the law.

The Maquila Solidarity Network has been working with the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center in Peru, IndustriALL and Peruvian garment and textile worker union federations to secure company support for a repeal of Decree 22342.