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Bundesliga sponsor fires union members

Roy Robson is a German clothing company known for its sharp suits, and is a major sponsor of well-known German soccer league Bundesliga football teams FC St Pauli, Werder Bremen and VfL Wolfsburg. Players dress in suits supplied by the company at events or when travelling.

Roy Robson operates its own production facility for suits and sports jackets in Izmir, Turkey, employing approximately 600 people. The plant is part of an industrial complex containing factories of other German clothing brands, including Hugo Boss.

IndustriALL Global Union’s Turkish affiliate Teksif has tried to organize the workforce at the Izmir plant for some time. However, when workers join the union, the company fires them. A total of eleven union members have been fired this year.

IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches wrote to the general manager of the Roy Robson factory in Izmir, Timur Şengezer, in January, saying:

“IndustriALL Global Union is outraged to learn that the Teksif member were dismissed by Roy Robson management in Izmir as soon as they joined our affiliate Teksif.”

He urged the company to “… to reinstate immediately the union members, respect the right of workers to organize and join a union, and engage in constructive negotiations with Teksif.”

When IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan proposed a meeting with Mr Şengezer to establish constructive dialogue, however Roy Robson refused the request, saying that on principal, the company never meets with unions. The company subsequently increased its pressure, through mass meetings, over the workers for preventing them to join Teksif.

Speaking after the firings, Özkan said:

“Roy Robson have scored an own goal by firing their best team. The union eleven are committed to winning better conditions at the company. Roy Robson must respect the right of workers to organize.”

Roy Robson is proud of its association with Bundesliga teams, claiming that “the players, trainers and staff cut quite a dash in the new outfits.” The company claims to have high social standards saying “as an employer, the company guarantees to maintain high labour law and social standards in production…”.  Roy Robson also claims to offer a one shift system, transport and a meal for workers, and bonuses on top of wages. However, workers who join unions continue to be fired.

This anti-union stance is especially ironic because St Pauli fans pride themselves in their support of progressive politics. St Pauli is famous across Europe for its sense of social responsibility, clearly articulated in its fundamental principles.

Roy Robson produces almost 9 per cent of its products in Europe, in Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia and Portugal.

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