ChoiShin Co Ltd.V ITGWLF, FKTU and KCTU

Overview

NCP Decision Accepted
Current Status Closed
Date Submitted 19/03/2002
Date Closed 01/07/2003
Case Duration 67 weeks and 0 days
Host Country Guatemala  (Non-adhering country)
Sector Textiles, Leather and Garments 
Issue(s) Anti-union campaign, which included harassment and threats against workers
Provisions Cited IV.1-a  IV.7   
Case Description In February 2002, the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF) in co-operation with TUAC and its two Korean affiliates FKTU and KCTU brought a case to the Korean NCP concerning the behaviour of ChoiShin and Cimatextiles - two Guatemalan subsidiaries of ChoiShin Co. Ltd. of Korea, which mainly produced clothes for the American retailer Liz Claiborne. The two plants had been conducting an aggressive anti-union campaign, which included harassment and threats against workers.

The case was also sent to the US NCP because of the connection to Liz Claiborne.

The FNV also raised the case with the Dutch NCP since government funds had been used for the Central American Maquila Organising Programme, which included workers from the two plants concerned.

The case was also raised with the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association, which in February 2003 urged the Guatemalan government “to ensure that the investigation covers all the allegations made in this case concerning serious acts of violence and other antiunion acts at the ChoiShin and Cimatextiles enterprises in the Villanueva free trade zone, with a view to clarifying the facts, determining responsibility and punishing those responsible”.

Developments On May 20, the US NCP replied that it had contacted the Korean NCP “with the request for information on their handling of the issue”. The following day, the Korean NCP wrote to TUAC to ask for advice on what action to take. At first, the Dutch NCP did not find the case relevant. But in March 2003, the NCP held a meeting with the General Secretary of the ITGLWF. In April 2003, in connection with the CIME meeting, TUAC arranged a meeting between the Korean NCP, the President of the Guatemalan trade union concerned, FESTRAS and the General Secretary of the ITGLWF.
Outcome In Spring 2003, the Guatemalan government threatened to revoke the company’s export licence if it did not reach an agreement with the trade unions. In July 2003, ChoiShin signed a first collective bargaining agreement with the two unions Sitracima and Sitrachoi. The company also started to reinstate the union members that had been dismissed.

Organisations

Lead NCP South Korea NCP : Independent Expert Body 
Supporting NCP US NCP : Single Department with Interagency Working Group 

Companies

Multinational Company ChoiShin Co. Ltd (Home country: South Korea)
Subsidiary Cimatextiles (Home country: Guatemala)
Subsidiary ChoiShin (Home country: Guatemala)

Complainants

Lead Complainant FKTU - Federation of Korean Trade Unions : National Centre 
Lead Complainant KCTU- Korea : National Centre 
Lead Complainant International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation : Global Union Federation 

TUAC Analysis

Did the NCP publish its initial assessment? status-icon
Did the case involve parallel proceedings? status-icon
Was the existence of parallel proceedings an obstacle to the NCP accepting the case? status-icon
Was the businsess relationship other than that of a subsidiary? status-icon
Was the nature of the business relationship an obstacle to the NCP accepting the case? status-icon
Did the NCP inform other relevant government departments about its acceptance of this case? status-icon
Did the NCP offer mediation or conciliation? status-icon
Did the company accept the offer of mediation or conciliation? status-icon
Did the complainant(s) accept the offer of mediation or conciliation? status-icon
Was mediation or conciliation held? status-icon
Was mediation or conciliation conducted by a professional mediator? status-icon
Did the parties reach agreement? status-icon
If yes, did the NCP publish this agreement following the consent of the parties? status-icon
If mediation was refused or failed did the NCP make an assessment of whether the company had breached the Guidelines? status-icon
Did the NCP conduct in-host country fact finding? status-icon
Did the NCP make recommendations to the company on the future implementation of the Guidelines? status-icon
Did the NCP publish its final statement or report? status-icon
Did the NCP provide for follow-up of the agreement/recommendations? status-icon
Did the NCP inform other relevant government departments about its final statement or report? status-icon
Did the NCP inform public pension funds about its final statement or report? status-icon
Did the NCP apply any consequences in this case? status-icon
Did the NCP follow the indicative timescales set out in the procedural guidance? status-icon
Was there a positive outcome for the workers involved in this case? status-icon
Did the filing of the case under the Guidelines have a positive impact for the workers involved? status-icon
Did the lead NCP play a positive role? status-icon
If different, did the home NCP play a positive role? status-icon

TUAC Assessment

It is difficult to assess to what extent the Korean NCP contributed to the solution of the case. What is clear is that the case was finally resolved because of the threat to revoke the export licence. According to the NCP, it recommended that the company should “conserve the local culture and labour practice and to encourage workforce-friendly environment”. The NCP did meet with the Korean management a number of times and did take measures to try to resolve the issue. But it did not follow the procedures set out in the Procedural Guidance. Firstly, it did not respond directly to the party raising the case, the ITGLWF. Instead it contacted a Korean affiliate of the ITGLWF, which created confusion. Secondly, it invited the company and NGOs to an arbitration meeting, but not the ITGLWF, which posed the question how to conduct an arbitration meeting if one of the parties in the dispute is not present! In addition, the NCP claimed that the ITGLWF had not proved that the trade unions represented at least 25 per cent of the employees, which is the legal requirement in order to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. But the issue for the NCP to consider was the fact that the company prevented the workers from organising, which naturally makes it impossible to enter into any collective bargaining negotiations. Although the case was of some use in raising the profile of this dispute in the Korean government, it was ultimately resolved through national law and the NCP missed an opportunity to achieve a much earlier solution and to play a constructive role itself.

Implications

NCP Cooperation