Textile workers call for action on Levi closures

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Series Details Vol.4, No.39, 29.10.98, p7
Publication Date 29/10/1998
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Date: 29/10/1998

By Myles Neligan

THE European Commission has agreed to hold meetings next month with EU textile workers, who claim that US jeans makers Levi Strauss' decision to close down four factories in Belgium and France highlights inadequacies in Union laws on worker consultation.

But Commission officials say they can do nothing to overturn Levi's decision, insisting that the company has complied with EU legislation, and stress that any move to strengthen existing worker consultation regulations will have await a full-scale review scheduled for next year. "We can look at the question of worker consultation in that context, but toughening up the existing rules cannot happen overnight," said a spokeswoman for Social Affairs Commissioner Pádraig Flynn.

The European Trade Union Federation of Textiles, Clothing and Leather (ETUF-TCL) wants the Commission to back calls for stricter worker consultation measures. "We want to draw the Commission's attention to the problems thrown up by the absence of a coherent EU employment strategy and the flaws in existing worker consultation directives," said union chief Patrick Itschert. "Levi's wants to close down its plants without assuming its social responsibilities and that is unacceptable."

But the firm insists that it has fulfilled all its obligations under national and EU laws. "We have met regularly with trade unions within the structure of the consultation process, which we are happy to comply with," said Mark Elliott, EU communications manager at Levi Strauss Europe.

The ETUF-TCL won a small victory last week by persuading Levi Strauss to appoint consultants to conduct an audit of the four factories earmarked for closure, and to assess counter-proposals put forward by trade union leaders. These options would involve partial redundancies and emphasis on part-time work instead of plant closures.

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