publications

Trade unions and their allies are critical actors in driving corporate accountability for workers’ rights in global supply chains. In the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster and other industrial tragedies and labor rights abuses, trade unions and their allies are forging meaningful corporate accountability for workers rights by negotiating legally binding, enforceable agreements between brands and trade unions that cover labor rights in the operations of brands’ third-party suppliers.

These agreements, which are often referred to by their proponents as “enforceable brand agreements” or “EBAs”, raise the bar for protection of labor rights in supply chains by replacing brands’ voluntary corporate social responsibility programs that have failed to end abuses with legally enforceable obligations to require and ensure that suppliers respect workers’ rights.

EBAs like the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (the Accord) have achieved historic progress when compared to the dismal track record of traditional CSR programs. The death-toll from garment factory fires and building collapses in Bangladesh has been reduced by over 95% since the Accord’s inception. Despite this progress, the dispute resolution mechanism that ensures its enforceability has proven to be overly expensive, time consuming and less-than-transparent in practice. In order for EBAs to deliver greater accountability and transparency, they require more agile and efficient methods of dispute resolution. 

Designed for direct incorporation into enforceable brand agreements, the Model Arbitration Clauses for the Resolution of Disputes under Enforceable Brand Agreements Clauses advance a streamlined arbitration system that protects impartiality and due process while avoiding excessive litigiousness, promoting transparency, alleviating burdensome costs, and providing final and binding enforcement. The Clauses draw from leading international arbitration rules and existing supply-chain agreements negotiated by trade unions, labor rights NGOs and brands.

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Advancing Gender Justice on Asian Fast Fashion Supply Chains Post COVID-19: Learning from ILO’s Convention 190 on Its First Anniversary, reviews the gendered impact of COVID-19—and the need for a transformational approach to prevent and end GBVH using guidance from C190—in the context of Asian fast fashion supply chains which produce primarily consumer apparel and footwear. The report highlights the persistent risk factors for violence that both predate and are exacerbated by COVID-19. It provides detailed guidance for fast fashion lead firms on steps they can take to uphold C190 obligations to address violence on garment supply chains in context of the global public health crisis and the economic shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While this report focuses on fast fashion supply chains, the guidance for corporate accountability to achieve violence free workplaces provides an important roadmap across global supply chain sectors.

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Gender based violence in the Walmart garment supply chains is about the way that Walmart does business.

On May 28th, 2018 a global coalition of trade unions, worker rights and human rights organizations, which includes Asia Floor Wage Alliance, CENTRAL Cambodia, and Global Labor Justice released new factory level research detailing gender based violence in Walmart’s Asian garment supply chain. The coalition asks for immediate action by Walmart.

For women garment workers, violence and harassment isn’t limited to violence that takes place in physical workplaces, but also during commutes and in employer provided housing. Women garment workers in Walmart supply chains in Bangladesh and Cambodia reported acts of violence that include acts that inflicted sexual harm and suffering; physical violence, verbal abuse, coercion, threats and retaliation, and routine deprivations of liberty including forced overtime.

These are not isolated incidents. Rather, they reflect a convergence of risk factors for gender based violence in Walmart supplier factories that leave women garment workers systematically exposed to violence. Risk factors for violence documented in the Walmart garment supply chain, include: use of short term contracts, production targets, industrial discipline practices, wage related rights abuses, excessive working hours, and unsafe workplaces.

Barriers to accountability include: unauthorized subcontracting, denial of freedom of association, failure to require independent monitoring, and gendered cultures of impunity among perpetrators of violence and prevent women from seeking accountability and relief.

From 2018-2019, the International Labour Organization (ILO) is convening to set the first international labor standards on violence and harassment in the world of work, including gender based violence. Trade union leaders from around the world along with governments and business will meet to discuss the historic opportunity to create a global standard protecting women across sectors. These reports have been prepared to inform this dialogue. They aim to make sure that the experience and recommendations of low wage women workers, employed in sectors and supply chains that rely on their labor, are lifted up in order to create a strong framework that will guide employers, multi-national enterprises, and governments in eliminating gender based violence in garment supply chains and other workplaces.

Recommendations to the International Labour Organization (ILO)

Spectrum of gender based violence in Walmart garment supply chains

Gendered production roles in Walmart supplier factories in Bangladesh and Cambodia

Asia Floor Wage Alliance

The Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) is an international alliance of trade unions and labour rights activists who are working together to demand garment workers are paid a living wage. It began in 2005 when trade unions and labour rights activists from across Asia came together to agree on a strategy for improving the lives of garment workers: a wage for garment workers across Asia that would be enough for workers to live on.