Union blasts Canadian Tire for lack of transparency into foreign factory conditions

People walk out of a Canadian Tire Store that is located by a Mark’s clothing store, which is owned by Canadian Tire Corporation in Toronto, May 8, 2014. (Reuters)
People walk out of a Canadian Tire Store that is located by a Mark’s clothing store, which is owned by Canadian Tire Corporation in Toronto, May 8, 2014. (Reuters)

United Steelworkers (USW) has called out one of Canada’s most well-known brands for not being more transparent about where and how it produces its clothing.

USW issued a letter to Mark’s, Sport Check and Sports Experts owner Canadian Tire on Apr. 24, saying the union was concerned about the safety and human rights of workers who produce the clothing for those brands.

“The problem is that there is no transparency,” USW said in the letter sent to Canadian Tire headquarters. “Human rights watchdogs and labour advocates are unable to independently verify that garments sold under Canadian Tire’s private labels are manufactured in factories that are safe and where workers’ rights are respected, and can’t ask Canadian Tire for corrective action in specific factories when problems arise.”

Letters were also sent to 67 store managers of Mark’s, Sport Check and Sports Experts locations.

Canadian Tire was quick to respond to the letter, explaining that they work with 47 production facilities in Bangladesh, all of which are part of The Alliance, a group representing worker safety in that country. Canadian Tire also explains some of its practices on its corporate website in regards to garment production.

The company also says the manufacturers of its clothing are visited by Canadian Tire employees before selection, audited by a third-party body to ensure safety standards are met, and must be willing to work with the company when gaps are identified.

“[Canadian Tire’s] global sourcing teams frequently visit factories during production runs to ensure product quality and confirm workers are being treated fairly and with respect, and to ensure that the factories’ activities are aligned with our Supplier Code of Business Conduct,” Canadian Tire said in a statement, which was also issued to Doug Olthuis, executive director of USW.

“The values outlined in our Supplier Code of Business Conduct are important to us and we do terminate relationships with any factories that do not demonstrate commitment to meeting our standards or those of [the Business Social Compliance Initiative].”

USW’s timing coincides with the five year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse, which killed 1,134 people when the eight-storey building came down. Another Canadian company, Joe Fresh, had garments produced at the facility. The U.S.-led Alliance was created in response to the tragedy, but according to the USW’s letter, The Alliance will be ending its operations in Bangladesh by the end of this year.

In addition to the information given on Canadian Tire’s corporate website and The Alliance’s documentation, USW says it’s seeking a regularly-updated list that contains the full name of all production and processing facilities complete with addresses, parent companies, products made and the number of workers at the site.

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