Mulberry accused of failing workers
Handbag brand slammed for worker exploitation at Turkish factory
Turkish workers and activists globally launched a series of protests last week against handbag brand Mulberry for failing to protect the rights of workers in its Izmir supplier factory. More than 15 stores were picketed across Europe and the US on Wednesday and Thursday.
The brand is being criticised for refusing to step in to protect workers from union busting tactics at the factory SF Leather in Turkey, after management fired workers who had joined the union and only offered to rehire them if they gave up union membership.
In Bristol, campaigners from Labour Behind the Label took a giant pink handbag to Harvey Nichols.
The campaigners collected signatures for a global petition before heading to Mulberry's headquarters in Portishead to hand in their petition.
"People wrongly assume and connect poor working conditions with low end stores and products," Ilana Winterstein from Labour Behind the Label told the Bristol Post.
"Just because you have paid £1,200 for a handbag does not mean the workers have been treated fairly. In Eastern Europe labour is cheap and the problem is not confined to Asia, India and Pakistan."
Breaking its own code of conduct
Mulberry does have a set of 'global sourcing principles', which includes commitments to international human rights such as freedom of association, but protesters say this is being violated by their failure to act.
“Workers at SF Leather make 8000 Mulberry handbags a month for a pittance, but when they join the union to ask for higher wages they are fired, and Mulberry does nothing. What sort of message does this send to their rich customers? To us it says that Mulberry is no good,” said Abdulhalim Demir from Clean Clothes Campaign Turkey.
A worker from the factory, and member of the Deriteks union, Mehmet Cin said: “As a worker in the Mulberry factory SF Leather, I work hard every day to make profits for Mulberry, and Mulberry has repaid us by crushing our union. Until now Mulberry has ignored our rights and refused to take responsibility its workers, but we will not be silent, we should not be punished for standing up for our basic rights.”
The workers explain their plight
A spokesperson for Mulberry, told the Bristol Post: "Mulberry is a global British brand, based in Somerset... We take very seriously the rights and responsibilities outlined in our sourcing principles and we expect a very high standard from our suppliers. We are fully aware that a labour issue has arisen at our supplier SF Leather in Izmir, Turkey. We understand the matter has now become a legal issue and is undergoing a legal process. It is therefore inappropriate for Mulberry to comment on the details of this case, at this stage."
SF Leather employs 190 workers and 90% of the factory's production is for British handbag and purse brand Mulberry. A petition online in support of the workers' plight has so far built 10,151 signatures.
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