Fashionistas and journalists arriving on 15 February for the start of London Fashion Week were greeted by models dressed in high fashion clothes crafted out of packaging materials to challenge Deutsche Post DHL, the show’s major sponsor and official logistics provider, over its ongoing abuse of workers’ rights.
The style-conscious protest had a clear message – that employees are a crucial part of the fashion supply chain.
The models spent the morning parading outside Somerset House, the week’s central venue, accompanied by ITF and UNI members who talked to visitors and the media, and handed out leaflets. These highlighted some of DHL’s abuses of workers’ rights, including its illegal firing of workers in Turkey, its use of lie detectors against staff in Colombia, and its reliance on agency staff to work on lower wages and with no job security in the UK.
ITF acting general secretary Steve Cotton commented: “London Fashion Week is the celebrity face of DHL, but there’s a much less glamorous side to the company, and that’s what we aim to expose and keep on exposing – until they fix it by treating all their workers decently.”
Philip Jennings, UNI general secretary, added: “DHL’s violations of international labour standards are well documented. DHL is ‘démodé’. It is out of step with the requirements of an ethical and sustainable fashion industry. UNI and ITF stand ready to work with DHL to help it turn the page and become a responsible supplier to the fashion industry.”
Many exhibitors contacted by the unions ahead of the London Fashion Week said they intended to contact DHL to quiz it on its behaviour.
The ITF and UNI are fighting for DHL workers’ rights worldwide and have presented evidence of repeated abuses in multiple countries where DHL operates. They want DHL to clean up its act and begin to abide by its stated corporate social responsibility aims, regardless of which country it is operating in.
An international union delegation arrived in Istanbul on the same day to join the workers sacked by DHL Turkey at their picket line. It included officials from BTB, Belgium; CWU, Great Britain; FTTUB, Bulgaria; ver.di, Germany; and NTF, Norway.