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OECD launches guidelines for garment and footwear sector

10 February, 2017New guidelines aiming to transform risk assessment in the garment and footwear sector have been launched by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in Paris on 8 February. 

The OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains in the Garment and Footwear Sector were formulated in response to international pressure, following the Rana Plaza factory building collapse in Bangladesh that killed over a thousand garment workers in 2013.

IndustriALL Global Union, which represents garment workers around the world, was a member of the OECD advisory board and consulted in the drafting of the guidelines.

“The guidelines represent a move beyond voluntary, non-binding auditing and corporate social responsibility initiatives, which have done little or nothing to protect and improve the rights of workers,” said IndustriALL’s textile and garment industry director, Christina Hajagos-Clausen.  

The new OECD international standards are endorsed by brands, labour and industry, and involve real worker participation in identifying risk and violations of human rights, while encouraging direct negotiations with labour.

“It is important there is a common understanding that workers are not peripheral to the due diligence process, but core to it.  The Guidance articulates when and how workers should be involved and labour views this as a welcome shift,” said Hajagos-Clausen at the Paris launch.

The guidelines allow for workers and trade unions to actively participate in designing and implementing on-site supplier assessments; developing corrective action plans; monitoring impacts; and formulating operational-level grievance mechanisms.

Significantly, the guidelines promote responsible purchasing practices, lack of which can lead to excessive and forced overtime as well as low wages for workers. IndustriALL’s ACT initiative is a memorandum of understanding signed by global apparel brands that identifies industry-wide collective bargaining and responsible purchasing practices as essential to achieving living wages.  

“By creating mechanisms that link unions, buyers and suppliers, ACT aims to create a framework for genuine supply chain industrial relations for a fair and stable global garment industry,” Hajagos-Clausen told launch attendees.   

The guidelines also endorse direct agreements between enterprises and trade unions, such as global framework agreements (GFAs).  IndustriALL has four global framework agreements with apparel brands Inditex, H&M, Tchibo and Mizuno.

The guidelines include various modules on sector risks, including child labour; sexual harassment and gender-based violence; forced labour; working time; occupational health and safety; trade unions and collective bargaining; and wages, as well as environmental hazards.

“I am hopeful that this new guidance can help mitigate and remedy worker rights’ violations. We have a long way to go, as globally the supply chain is full of risks.  As we sit here, 25 workers and labour leaders are in jail for participating in mobilizations to demand a living wage,” concluded Hajagos-Clausen as she referred to IndustriALL’s campaign to release jailed union leaders and garment workers in Bangladesh.