Italy: Tod’s fashion group’s antiunion policy

by Vittorio Longhi

‘An isolated nineteenth-century master that still does not allow unions and dialogue’. That is how Italian trade unionists describe Tod’s fashion group chief Diego Della Valle who decided unilaterally to hand out a 1,400 euro (nearly $2,000) bonus to his workers, for this year, allegedly to help them with a penalizing price increases that are putting average Italian salaries in the doldrums.

“We see this as a signal of solidarity and a thank-you to our employees who have largely contributed in elevating the Tod’s name worldwide” said in a press release the company that employs 1,600 workers in Italy .

This grant is undoubtly an excellent marketing strategy for Mr Della Valle who’s very keen on appearing as a fair and generous employer, but what media are not reporting is that the grant was absolutely unilateral and not agreed with workers’ representatives. Also Tod’s group seems to have a quite bad history of industrial relations.

Local textiles, clothing and leather trade unionists have tried many and many times to have a dialogue with Mr Della Valle but he still does not recognize union representatives, which were democratically elected in his factories in Marche and Tuscany regions. And actually the grant seems to be the result of a long union protest and demand for collective bargaining, complementary agreement and better wages.

‘Unions should go abroad and see how the world is changing’ Mr Della Valle stated, adding that ‘there’s no reason to bargain until the government does not issue new labour laws allowing companies to be more competitive and workers to have better wages’.

And yet, the company was condemned by local labour court in 1997 for not respecting the national contract as it imposed to 86 workers flexibility measures. In 2003 it was condemned for denying piecework compensation to a retiring worker. Also, Tod’s was at the bottom of the list in a study for WWF which ranks the most exclusive companies in the world of fashion and jewellery based on the sustainability and ethics of their business.

‘The isolation of Della Valle is unprecedented in Italian fashion industry: he represents an idea of industrial relations which was typical of nineteenth-century paternalistc masters’, said Valeria Fedeli, Italian general secretary of Cgil garment workers’ union and president of the European Trade Union Federation of Textiles, Clothing and Leather. ‘Why does he not want to sign an agreement on grants with union representatives?’ Ms Fedeli asks.

‘He then complains about globalisation hard challenges but our union is working with so many Italian companies to find new and better ways to face international competition in the foot-wear and clothing industry. In the last years we have workerd out common policies on international trade, facing the need of better rules at the national and European level, we agreed on industrial policies, on the innovation of production processes, new labour and training policies. Why Della Valle thinks he can do better on his own, without any dialogue, any negotiation?’

Guglielmo Epifani, general secretary of Italy’s largest trade union confederation Cgil, commented: “Della Valle believes he’s a ‘dominus’ that from the top grants a gratuity to his workers. This is not a modern action and his aim is clear: he does not want to recognize the representative role of trade unions”.

However, Italian footwear and clothing industry is facing the strong competition of cheap labour countries like China, so many industrialists threaten unions and workers to transfer factories abroad.

Tod’s is still an Italy-based company that, through its subsidiaries, is primarily engaged in the production and marketing of shoes and luxury leather goods. Company’s brands include Tod’s, which provides hand-crafted, luxury shoes and bags, Hogan, which produces functional leather and fabric shoes, and Fay, which offers a collection of casual clothing for men, women and children.

Last year revenues (first 9 months) were at 500 million Euro (+14.1%) with a 96.1 million pre-tax profit and a 57.8 million net income. So what the unions are now asking for is just a complementary agreement for a fair redistribution of part of those profits among workers, whose average salary is 950 euro per month ($1,400), while a Tod’s leather bag costs about 1,000.

Tod’s sees 2007 profit below expectations, sales rise


2 Responses to “Italy: Tod’s fashion group’s antiunion policy”

  1. 1 Indra February 2, 2008 at 2:39 am

    An interesting news on anti-union policy. After reading it, I’m shocked to know that so called big corporate giants are making fortunes by sucking sweats and blood of workers. But in return they are not allowing trade union and deliberately denying workers’ rights. I wish trade unions would lobby with the government agencies and get issues settled in a democratic way. But never compromise your dignity and basic human rights. Wish you all very good luck.

  1. 1 Politics » Italy: Tod’s fashion group’s antiunion policy Trackback on January 30, 2008 at 3:16 pm

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