INTERNATIONAL: Levi Strauss steps up community relations

SAN FRANCISCO: Levi Strauss has launched an extensive community and employee relations plan to coincide with its decision to close six US manufacturing plants.

Last week, the clothing company announced it would be closing the manufacturing operations as part of its strategic shift away from owner-and-operated manufacturing.

The firm - which retains a number of PR agencies in the US including Ketchum - is also focusing its resources away from manufacturing toward product marketing.

As a result, plants in Texas, California and Georgia will be closed by October.

While Levi's has been negotiating with the unions involved in the plants to hammer out 'transition' payments to employees, the company has also devised a number of community and employee services.

One is the addition of an employee advocate role in each plant location.

The advocate will help laid-off staff tap into the network of support available to them.

'It can be overwhelming for people,' said Levi's senior manager of corporate communications Linda Butler.

'This individual will stay in the community for a number of months to really help the employees get information and access all kinds of resources that are available to them through the community, such as educational institutions and local government,' she added.

Through the Levi Strauss Foundation, £1.9m has also been set aside to help the communities - some of which depended heavily on the manufacturing plants - make the transition to other revenue sources.

At the same time, Levi's will continue to focus on realigning the company's image.

'I think what we are seeing from the media is a very fair assessment of where the company is going and the business rationale for the closings,' Butler said.

'It's about our continued shift of focus,' she added.

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