INDEPENDENT MONITORING

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SAIPAN GARMENT MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands

News Release October 5, 1999

OF SAIPAN GARMENT FIRMS SET

Comprehensive independent monitoring of 31 Saipan garment manufacturers by one of the world’s premier professional services firms is set to begin next month under a new contract between the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association (SGMA) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC).

Internationally recognized for their work to improve business excellence, PWC will provide monitoring compliance for the SGMA members with the "Standards for the Treatment of Workers and Working Conditions and Standards for Living" set forth in the SGMA Code of Conduct.

Under a contract signed September 27 by the organization’s Executive Director Richard A. Pierce, SGMA will join other non-government organizations, such as advocacy groups, religious organizations and social service providers with PWC for a comprehensive external/independent monitoring program. Determined to beat a "sweatshop" image perpetuated by notoriously protectionist garment unions and activists on the U.S. mainland, 31 of the 34 factories on Saipan have joined SGMA to learn from international experts in labor law enforcement.

All of the SGMA member factories will accept on-site monitoring inspection visits by PWC beginning November 29, 1999. PWC will perform a baseline assessment with follow-up visits when required.

PricewaterhouseCoopers is one of the world's leading professional services organizations. Drawing on the knowledge and skills of 150,000 people in 150 countries, they are known for helping their clients to solve complex business problems and improve their performance.

PWC was chosen from 12 proposals received after SGMA advertised in the U.S. for qualified monitoring companies. The scope of their engagement includes collecting and analyzing facts and providing assessments of manufacturer compliance with the SGMA Code of Conduct. The Factory Monitoring Program includes the following modules:

Prohibition against Forced Labor

Prohibition against Child Labor

Prohibition against Harassment or Abuse

Nondiscrimination

Health and Safety

Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining

Wages and Benefits

Overtime Pay/Hours of Work

Worker Dormitories/Freedom of Movement

Compliance Principles

PWC will provide its analysis and findings to the individual member companies and to the SGMA. A report will be prepared for public disclosure after the baseline study is complete. This is expected to be submitted in early January 2000. All reports will list non-compliance with recommended corrective action.

"SGMA recognizes that what counts most about having standards is their enforcement," said Pierce. "If we wish the public to view our Code of Conduct and independent monitoring as genuine self-regulation, we must live by the rules we set for ourselves. We have proceeded to do that through a compliance mechanism built into the Code of Conduct."

Introduced in December of 1998, the SGMA Code of Conduct was patterned after a model derived from the Clinton Administration's Apparel Industry Partnership (AIP). The code encompasses high international standards for fair and humane treatment of workers and working conditions; standards for living conditions; fundamental rights of employees; standards for transshipment and country of origin of garments; and compliance and enforcement principles.

Training required for the full implementation of the Code of Conduct was presented at three separate training conferences held in January, February and August 1999. Sessions were presented by Business for Social Responsibility, a San Francisco-based human rights and educational non-profit organization, and U.S. federal government offices including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Wage & Hour Division of the Department of Labor.

Employing nearly 15,000 people, garment manufacturing is a driving economic force in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands -- the only other major industry being tourism. SGMA has worked to improve its factories’ compliance record: the most recent OSHA statistics show that in fiscal year 1998, Saipan’s apparel factories had a 70% better compliance rate than apparel factories elsewhere in the United States, despite the fact that they were among the most frequently inspected.

Saipan, the capital of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is part of a chain of 14 islands located in the western Pacific some 150 miles north of Guam and 1,300 miles from Tokyo. Although more closely tied to the economy of the Asia, the Northern Marianas is a U.S. territory with a democratically-elected local government.

For additional information, contact: Richard A. Pierce TEL: (670) 235-7699 E-mail: rapierce@itecnmi.com  Website: http://www.sgma-saipan.org 

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