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Bulgaria: GFAs in garment sector promoting rights

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11 April, 2018Global framework agreements (GFAs) were at the focus of a meeting led by the ILO in Sofia, Bulgaria, on industrial relations in the global supply chains entitled “Key Features of Social Dialogue and Cooperation at the Workplace: Rights and Responsibilities, Good Practices, and Benefits”.

Co-sponsored by Spanish-based global retailer, Inditex, the meeting on 30 March 2018 was also attended by other GFA partners Swedish H&M and British ASOS, together with their main suppliers in Bulgaria. IndustriALL Global Union and its Bulgarian affiliates, FOSIL/CITUB and the Federation of Light Industry/Podkrepa, brought a labour view to discussions. 

The objective of the meeting was to underline the importance of freedom of association and workplace cooperation in global supply chains, as well as raise awareness of the benefits of genuine social dialogue and GFA implementation in the garment sector in Bulgaria. The three GFA-partner global brands have sizable sourcing from Bulgaria.

The ILO explained how international legal frameworks regulate rights and responsibilities at the workplace and their application in global supply chains. Freedom of association, collective bargaining and the benefits of sectoral level bargaining were highlighted. The Better Work program of the ILO was presented as a way to promote responsible workplace practices for both workers and companies. 

The three brands, having GFAs with IndustriALL Global Union and being part of the ACT initiative, emphasized that GFAs are an essential part of their core business model.  The brands reiterated their pledge to respect ILO core labour standards and expressed their determination to work with suppliers and unions’ representatives to ensure effective GFA implementation and achieve decent work in the Bulgarian textile and garment sector.    

IndustriALL’s Bulgarian affiliates expressed their desire that their Government develop an effective strategy for the garment sector, promoting investment and employing more workers. According to the Bulgarian unions, in the absence of an employers’ association, collective bargaining, if any takes place at the plant level.

The Bulgarian garment industry is characterized by poor working conditions, very low wages (the legal minimum wage is currently at US$322 a month) and lack of prospects, making the industry unattractive to young people.

At the end of the meeting, IndustriALL Global Union’s two Bulgarian affiliates said:

“The GFAs give us value and leverage with a clear perspective on how to conduct successful dialogue between social partners and how to solve problems together. The only way forward for us here in Bulgaria is effective and meaningful industrial relations with a mechanism where decisions are taken jointly for the benefit of workers and enterprises the textile and garment sector.”

Christina Hajagos-Clausen, IndustriALL Global Union’s Director for Textile, Garment, Leather and Shoe Industries said:

“The GFAs are important tools that IndustriALL Global Union has been developing for quite a long time. GFAs are playing a key role in different parts of the world, and now in Bulgaria. Our objective is to give our utmost support to our Bulgarian affiliates as part of the strategic goals of our global union.”