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Confronting global capital in the garment industry

27 October, 2021140 unionists met online on 20-21 October to discuss the implementation of a global supply chain strategy and growing and strengthening union membership in an industry where the garment workers often find themselves at the bottom of the value chain.

In his opening statement, IndustriALL general secretary Atle Høie said that although the textile and garment sector is big in numbers of workers employed, it is small in terms of union membership.

“There is room to grow, and we need to come together and fight for organizing more members. And we should use the global framework agreements (GFA) we have in the sector more actively when organizing.”

IndustriALL has signed GFAs with five textile and garment manufacturers. The GFA with Japanese brand Mizuno was renewed last year.

Systemic solutions are needed to create a level playing field in the industry. This year has seen an important development of the live-saving Accord into an International Accord, extending the scope to new countries and beyond fire and building safety. Linking multinational companies’ purchasing practices to supply chain working conditions, ACT is a vehicle towards industry-wide bargaining.

The garment industry and its workers have been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. In countries without, or with weak, social protection, unpaid wages have had devastating effects on workers.

In accordance with the Charter of solidarity, IndustriALL has been working with affiliates to identify brands and retailers that have failed to pay for orders or exercise due diligence in managing their supply chains, resulting in violations of human rights and core labour standards. Affiliates are demanding that brands sign binding agreements with unions in their home countries and IndustriALL to commit to transparency on:

  • all changes in their sourcing arrangements, including non-payment of orders (detailing orders placed, WIP, etc), cancellation of orders, withdrawal of future orders and termination of contracts with suppliers
  • full data on partial or complete factory shut down of suppliers. Based on the forgoing information, MNEs, singly or jointly and /or through their industrial association but not limited to its members must ensure that together with their suppliers
  • all workers should be paid unpaid wages for periods of lockdown, layoff, suspension of production or any other temporary cessation of work
  • all workers should be reinstated with full back wages if they have been retrenched or removed from work in an operating factory and
  • in the event of plant closure, all retrenched workers should be adequately compensated

Participants in the meeting endorsed the PAY RIGHT NOW! Brands and Suppliers pay unpaid wages during the pandemic to the world’s garment workers.
Khaing Zar, IWFM president, raised the fight for democracy in Myanmar and the need for comprehensive economic sanctions to freeze out the ruling military junta.

“The industrial zones where textile production takes place are under martial law and many workers risk their lives. Workers are killed and imprisoned, and we need your solidarity and support.”

IndustriALL has heeded the call from affiliates in the country and are calling on companies operating in Myanmar to stop placing new orders and to withdraw from the country.

“Although the textile and garment industry is plagued by many challenges; job losses, wage theft, health and safety hazards, together with our unions we work towards setting new standards in the global supply chain,”

said Christina Hajagos-Clausen, IndustriALL textile and garment director.

“We need to continue to fight for union density, for decent working conditions and social protection. The exploitation in the industry can only be stopped by organizing and collective bargaining.”