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Nygård Cited Over Factory

Women's Wear Daily  |  April 15, 2010  |  Share  |  Source article

These have been trying days for Peter Nygård. On the heels of Friday's broadcast of the Canadian Broadcasting Commission's exposé alleging mistreatment of workers and explicit sexual behavior, Nygård was under fire Wednesday for using a Jordanian factory that allegedly partakes in human trafficking. 

According to a National Labor Committee report, the International British Garments factory is said to have trafficked 1,200 workers, taken their passports and has held them as indentured servants. IBG sews Nygård's Alia, Tan Jay and Investments labels, which are sold at stores such as Dillard's, J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart. 

In a statement, Nygård International said Wednesday the allegations were "a complete surprise" and immediate action was afoot to complete its own investigation. IBG senior management has "categorically denied these charges and invites anyone to visit the factory and dormitories so they can disprove these allegations." It also challenged the NLC for not touring the site. 

IBG employs 1,200 guest workers from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India - 75 percent of whom are young women forced to work 16-hour shifts, seven days a week, according to the NLC's "Dirty Clothes" report. The report also claims workers live in "filthy" unheated dorms, with only sporadic access to water, for two to four days a week. 

Charles Kernaghan, director of the NLC, planned to speak with Nygård senior executive Denis LaPointe today about what he described as "the worst factory in Jordan." He said, "It's like a prison camp. Nygård appears to be playing innocent. I don't believe they just put their clothing in that factory without going there and seeing it first." 

In its Fifth Estate "Larger Than Life" program, the CBC portrayed Nygård as a hard-partying, sometimes groping dilettante who allegedly fined workers at his palatial Bahamian resort for any missteps, disregarded getting work permits for nonresidents and forbade staffers from leaving the property without his permission. In the documentary, former staffers claimed sexual harassment and workplace harassment. But the broadcast "contained defamatory, untrue and malicious statements," according to the company. "Nygård and Nygård International are exploring legal options, including criminal action against CBC, and will vigorously defend their reputation." 

The company's namesake also plans to spend $50 million rebuilding Nygård Cay into an Atlantis-like resort. The property was razed by fire last fall, while Nygård was in New York for the grand opening of his Times Square store. The two-year process will require hiring 200 local workers. "If it looks impressive now, it will look 10 times more impressive," he said through a spokeswoman.


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