But the impact that the agreement will have outside the handful of Nien Hsing plants in Lesotho could be limited. To date, the agreement is the only thing in the fashion industry to end sexual abuse of garment workers. Levi`s says it has no intention of introducing similar initiatives throughout the supply chain. Not a single criminal has been prosecuted for sexual assault in factories. Anti-retaliation: In addition to protecting complainants and witnesses from reprisals, the agreement prohibits Nien Hsing from participating in any form of retaliation or anti-union interference in their factories – the first time such broad protection of freedom of association has been introduced as an enforceable provision of a worker-brand supply agreement. This programme is the result of several years of labour force at Nien Hsing by the Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL), United Textile Employees (UNITE), the National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union – and several years of women`s rights activists from the Federation of Women in Lesotho and Women (FIDA) and Law in Southern African Research and Trust Education-Lesotho (WLSA). The coalition of workers` and feminist organizations formed by these groups is at the heart of this breakthrough. The Solidarity Centre, Workers United and the RMC supported the efforts of Lesotho`s leaders to forge these agreements and sat down at the negotiating table with them, the brands and the employer. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), the Fair Food Standards Council (FFSC) and the Worker-driven Social Responsibility Network (CES-N) provided important technical and strategic advice. Before the blockade, the unions told me that things had already changed radically for the women in the factories that signed the agreement. “Before, it was always the workers who were desperate.
Now it`s the factories that are desperate not to lose the marks,” Mokhele said. The power dynamics have shifted considerably towards workers. The superiors can no longer touch it. One of the major successes of these agreements is the creation of the Office for the Prevention and Elimination of Gender-based Violence and Harassment, an independent body empowered to receive and investigate workers` complaints about abuse and to order factory management to impose sanctions on offenders, including dismissals, when allegations are examined.