By  on January 20, 1994

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- An unprecedented year-long collaboration between manufacturers, contractors and federal labor department officials here has yielded a "master contract agreement" that could serve as the model for the garment industry nationwide.

Containing terms that reduce the risk of wage and hour law violations prevalent in the apparel business, the three-part contract is also a working commercial agreement that resolves many of the thorny issues that often arise between manufacturers and contractors.

Schedule A of the pro forma contract requires contractors and manufacturers to spell out their terms, including an agreed-upon completion date, price per unit, type of contracted work, total number of contracted pieces, overtime ex-penses agreement and optional proportional progress payments.

Schedule B is the contractor's certification of good faith compliance with wage and hour laws. The contractor also agrees in this section that all contracted work will be done on the contractor's business premises.

The three-page agreement, which precedes both schedules, addresses 14 points, including the following:

The manufacturer and contractor relationship is not an implied or actual joint employer relationship.

A manufacturer must agree to pay a contractor the "reasonable value" for any work done without listed or agreed-upon terms.

A manufacturer must pay a contractor no later than 10 working days after the completion of contracted work.

Any disputes that arise must be submitted to final and binding arbitration by a three-person panel composed of a garment contractor representative, a manufacturer representative and a neutral arbitrator jointly selected by SFFI and the NCCGCA.

While the document won't let manufacturers and contractors "off the hook" if a violation is found, the Labor Department's Conte said he would "take a closer look" at cases where the contract is used. "I won't be running to a federal judge for an injunction as quickly."

Designer Jessica McClintock has publicly endorsed the agreement. Members of the San Francisco Fashion Industries (SFFI), a local manufacturers association, received copies of the agreement in late December. While they cannot be compelled to use it, SFFI executive director Randall Harris said he expects that most members will.

Representatives of The Northern California Chinese Garment Contractors Association and the Chinese Bay Area Garment Contractors Association, who played large roles in hammering out the agreement, said they felt the document would protect their members' rights. It is being translated into Chinese.

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