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Using due diligence to build union power in Asia Pacific

4 April, 2023In response to enactments of human rights due diligence laws in the global north, IndustriALL affiliates in Asia Pacific are preparing to use the laws to build union power in the global supply chain.

“Corporate social responsibility has failed to prevent human and worker rights’ violations and the global union movement is campaigning for increased accountability of companies. IndustriALL demanded a legally binding UN treaty at our Congress in 2021; we need binding rules to create an enabling environment for decent work in the supply chain, where freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are indispensable,”

said Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary.
The German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (SCDDA) came into force in January 2023. It covers German or foreign companies headquartered in the country with more than 3,000 employees (the number will be reduced to 1,000 in 2024).
Companies fulfilling the requirements need to conduct annual risk analysis to prevent human and worker rights violation in its own operations and those of its direct suppliers. The companies will be held responsible if it has substantial knowledge of human rights violations.
The companies must respect workers’ freedom of association, free collective bargaining, safety and health, and eradicate forced labour and child labour.  Workers and unions can directly lodge a complaint for violations at the German Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA), or through IndustriALL or trade union partners in Germany.

“Trade unions are important stakeholders to implement the law and make sure it focuses on people’s risks instead of business risks. Unions need to get involved in conducting risk analysis, preventive measures, corrective action and remedies. Providing training for shop stewards to document violations is essential to build cases against multinational companies.

“But most importantly, unions should use the law to conduct strategic organizing campaigns to build a strong union base along the supply chains to develop strong bargaining power,”

said Claudia Rahman, director of global trade union policy at German union IG Metall, at the IndustriALL webinar on understanding and using human rights due diligence to build union power on 29 March 2023.
In September 2022, the Japanese government published Guidelines on Respecting Human Rights in Responsible Supply Chains, covering all companies regardless of sizes and sector, direct and indirect suppliers, inside or outside Japan.
Although not legally binding, the government encourages companies to publish a human rights policy, to identify and assess any risk may adversely impact human rights. Businesses should prevent or mitigate adverse impacts and provide remedy to stakeholders suffering the adverse impact of human rights.
The Japan Council of Metalworkers' Unions (JCM) has urged the government to make workers and unions special stakeholders. JCM encourages affiliates to participate in the due diligence process through joining committees and to get involved in companies’ complaint and remediation mechanisms.

“JCM has published pamphlets on due diligence and included it in the spring offensive (Shunto) policy. The union will continue to demand that the government improves the guideline and monitors its implementation. If the guideline proves to be ineffective, unions in Japan will ask for legislation,”

said Hideyuki Hirakawa, JCM assistant general secretary.

“We believe that guidelines and legislations will not eliminate all existing labour disputes and union busting. Resolving issues through collective bargaining and consultation requires increased negotiating skills. Unions must work to improve capacity, and management must seriously commit to corporate social responsibility, international labour standards and human rights due diligence,"

said Akira Takakura, IndustriALL vice president.
Around 130 trade unionists from the Asia Pacific region participated in the webinar.

Cover photo: Industrial looms are operated at a rug factory in Mongolia. © ILO