In January of 2015, workers in SF Leather, who make high-end leather handbags which can fetch as much as $1,500 per piece, began organizing with DeriteksSendika. The employer found out in March and began a heavy-handed anti-union campaign, going as far as to illegally fire 14 of the workers for their organizing activities.
There can be no doubt as to the reason for these workers’ dismissal, as the employer offered 11 of the workers their positions back with the single requirement that they resign from their union membership. The workers refused, choosing instead to continue to exercise their legal rights to freedom of association.
Following the workers’ continuation of their picket line in front of the Free Zone which houses the factory, SF Leather management intensified their anti-union campaign by bringing charges against the workers and Deriteks union, attempting to force them to pay 600,000 TL and remove the name of the brand they are producing for, Mulberry, a UK-based luxury purse brand, from any of their campaign material, claiming the use of the name exposed trade secrets.
The workers and their supporters have reached out to Mulberry to correct this situation on multiple occasions. By Mulberry’s own claims, they should follow a set of “Global Sourcing Principles” which include the rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining for any employees in their supply chain. Despite the clearly illegal actions of SF Leather management, Mulberry first hired a 3rd party auditor to conduct an “investigation” which did not even include the auditor speaking with the dismissed workers. After the investigation was concluded Mulberry continued to dodge its responsibilities as a buyer by claiming that the ongoing Turkish court cases, the ones that SF Leather began in order to retaliate against the union members, made it impossible for them to act until concluded. They did not explain exactly how a court case in Turkey, however, somehow absolved them of their responsibilities to live by their own “Global Sourcing Principles” and require that their supplier follow Turkish and international labour law.
The workers and their allies are now calling on Mulberry to ensure that their supplier act responsibly. They demand the following:
- Rehire back all 14 workers illegally dismissed for exercising their rights to Freedom of Association
- Require that SF Leather management immediately cease all anti-union activity and allow workers to join the union of their choice
- Drop all charges against the workers and Deriteks union
Mulberry cannot consider itself a responsible brand if it does not act now to ensure that workers in its supply chain are treated fairly!