MONTREAL — Gildan Activewear has become the first Canadian company and first blank T-shirt maker to become a member of the Fair Labor Association.

This story first appeared in the November 7, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The FLA is an independent verification agency that promotes adherence to international labor standards and improvement of working conditions.

Gildan operates plants in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Haiti and Honduras and decided to become a member of the FLA because of the “credible and open process it offers for compliance with labor standards,” the company said in a statement.

The Washington-based organization has an independent monitoring system that ensures participating companies comply with its code of conduct and undertakes remedial measures when violations are found.

“Our participation in FLA is a logical next step in Gildan’s mission to implement the highest standards and best practices throughout our operations,” said company chief executive Greg Chamandy.

Gildan said it has had its own code of conduct for a number of years to monitor proper working conditions at its plants as well as those of its suppliers. It noted four of its plants have been certified under the Worldwide Responsible Apparel production program.

Gildan’s labor practices in Mexico and Central America have been criticized by the human-rights group Maquila Solidarity Network in Toronto. And last month, the Quebec Federation of Labor union said its Solidarity Fund, a major investor in Gildan, was working to resolve an unidentified problem at one of Gildan’s plants in Honduras.

The company has denied allegations of worker mistreatment and antiunion activity and maintains it is a leading promoter of fair working conditions.

The FLA comprises apparel and athletic footwear manufacturers, human rights and labor rights advocates, consumer groups and university representatives. Participating companies operate more than 300 plants in 30 countries with sales of over $30 billion.

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