WASHINGTON — UNITE HERE, the main apparel and textile workers’ union, has launched a protest against Hugo Boss Group at stores throughout the U.S. and Canada, alleging the German company is taking “an unfair stance” in contract negotiations for 80 employees at its warehouse and distribution center in Savannah, Ga.

The union began a series of protests Friday at Hugo Boss stores to publicize its contract dispute with the company. UNITE targeted a store in Montreal and continued its campaign through the weekend at several other locations. The union plans to protest at a dozen stores through the end of the week.

A Hugo Boss spokesman declined to comment.

UNITE has reached an impasse with Hugo Boss over the renewal of a three-year contract in which the union is seeking a wage increase and pension plan for the 80 employees, said Harris Raynor, UNITE’s southern regional director.

Union representatives met with Hugo Boss executives in April to renew the contract for the employees, who earn an average of $8 an hour. The talks fell apart, however, and the employees are working without a contract. Raynor said the company offered a 25-cents-an-hour increase in the first year, a $1-an-hour boost in the second year and another 25-cents-an-hour increase in the third year, but refused to offer a pension plan or 401K savings plan.

“It is a $1.50 wage increase over three years, which is a reasonable amount, but we are fighting over how to divide up that increase,” Raynor said. “We would like to have more money in the first and third year and less in the second year. The cost of living will gobble up the whole wage increase, considering how gas and medical benefits have increased.”

UNITE also represents 400 Hugo Boss employees at a manufacturing and distribution facility in Cleveland who are not covered by this contract.

This story first appeared in the June 12, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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