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The Structural Crisis of Labour Flexibility
Monday, 01 September 2008 01:00

Strategies and Prospects for Transnational Labour Organising in the Garment and Sportswear Industries

The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) was launched over 15 years ago. Much has been achieved in this period with regard to awareness raising, network building and a growing group of transnational corporations that recognise their responsibility for the (substandard) working conditions in facilities they do not directly own. At the same time, everyone active in the field knows that working conditions in the garment and athletic footwear industries have in general not improved. The CCC continues to receive reports of worker's rights violations on an almost daily basis. While code implementation programmes have led to some incremental improvements with regard to more visible worker's rights violations, fundamental principles such as the right of workers to be able to join a trade union and negotiate collectively with management are not being sufficiently addressed. Neither has there been much progress in other areas - for example, discrimination and harassment. Wages have generally been stagnant.

Since the CCC was established to improve the working conditions in the global garment industry and empower its workers, we must now ask how we can continue to increase our efforts to extend the impact of our campaigns. This paper is part of an ongoing evaluation and strategising process through which the CCC's aims and activities can be accessed, reviewed, redefined and adapted.

The central question here is what strategies, tools, campaigns would help to achieve our objectives? The paper first discusses why poor working conditions are so persistent in the global garment industry, despite fifteen years of codes of conduct. The second section discusses three main strategies the CCC has employed over the last 15 year to improve working conditions. It includes an overview of how the debate on codes of conduct, monitoring and verification has evolved. Finally, the third section discusses the three broad strategies that might increase the impact of voluntary, private instruments on working conditions. It discusses three different contexts in which voluntary initiatives can contribute to improve working conditions.

 

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