What’s better than brands’ giving their word on how things will improve for the workers with voluntary agreements? A legally binding agreement that holds brands accountable by a court of law.

The problem

About a decade after the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles (UNGP), it is clear that reliance on a voluntary framework has proven insufficient and ineffective for workers and the broader society. While various voluntary initiatives have been established from safety to wages and then some, research repeatedly reveals devastating facts. Working conditions and workers’ lives have not improved and the garment industry remains marred by endemic human rights violations and systematic exploitation.

Systemic patterns of human rights violations in the companies’ value chains speak volumes of a lack of systematic and meaningful Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD) practice. Violations of freedom of association, poverty wages, even with extensive overtime, occupational health and safety issues, and gender-based discrimination and violence are frequently documented in numerous brands’ and retailers’ value chains – despite their public commitments that they would prevent such human and labour rights abuses. Neither non-judicial grievance mechanisms nor social auditing, certification schemes, or various (other) responsible business initiatives have had the impact touted at their launch.

Workers risk their lives to make T-shirts in crumbling buildings, many send their children to sleep hungry despite working 12, even 16-hour shifts, and many cannot even stay with their families because the cost of living near their workplace is prohibitive on poverty wages that workers are still being paid. Most of these workers being women, they also witness, and many experience, gender based violence and discrimination.

These are some of the issues that we hold garment companies directly responsible for, despite their smokescreens such as claims that by not being garment workers’ direct employers they are absolved of the responsibility to ensure safe and just working environments.

Clothing companies have responded to outside criticism of labour rights violations in their supply chains by promising to do better. Many use these voluntary commitments as a selling point, trying to signal that theirs is a socially conscious company.

The lofty Codes of Conduct and sugar coated public commitments since worker exploitation in outsourced factories was first widely exposed, in the 1990s, evaporated into thin air as soon as consumers’ gaze turned away.

What we do

As Clean Clothes Campaign, we are an active member in various coalitions and initiatives that ask for strong legislation.

Legislation that will guarantee the right to remedy when workers' rights are violated, that will ensure there is liability for the whole supply chain, and that includes climate and environmental considerations.

We believe there will be a need for legislation on various levels: a UN Binding Treaty, a strong EU legislation that includes special provisions for high-risk sectors like the garment industry, and national-level initiatives that can take further measures.

We want garment companies to clean up their act and the whole industry, and to do so now. Workers have waited far too long, with brands’ promises going unmet.

As a first step, we ask for binding agreements signed by brands and applicable at their supplier workplaces.

We want to see a series of enforceable supply chain agreements that will address specific issues within the supply chain. We want them to specify concrete measures as well as enforcement, supervision, complaint mechanisms and remedy.

These agreements are legally binding contracts that can be upheld in a court of law so brands cannot make promises that nobody holds them accountable for. They are voluntary in that garment brands individually opt in rather than face a legal requirement to sign on. These agreements create legal commitments, and if they are violated, brands can find themselves in courtrooms.

Examples of agreements that are a result of this strategy are the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and the Freedom of Association Protocol in Indonesia. The latest such agreement addresses gender-based violence at factories in Lesotho, in the wake of Workers Rights Consortium’s investigation and subsequent negotiation with key buyers.

Next, we want to see enforceable supply chain agreements on wages.

We want due diligence to be a matter of regulatory compliance with not only clear enforcement mechanisms but also effective remedies. Human rights violations should be a matter of urgency for the garment and sportswear industry, it's time stakeholders work together to eradicate them from the supply chain.

Background

Companies have a lot of money to spend on presenting their toothless measures as social consciousness, and many consumers buy into this narrative. Yet it must be clear after decades of trying and testing that voluntary commitments are not enough.

The alterative we advocate are binding agreements that address the root causes of major problems. The promises contained in those documents are legally binding, unlike the many lofty words that brands put together to ride the wave of ”sustainable” consumption.

What distinguishes such agreements from the regular worker-management or workplace collective bargaining agreements is that they are negotiated with brands and retailers. These are not garment workers’ direct employers, but as buyers from garment factories they have a responsibility for working conditions and workers' rights in their supply chains — and they are the ones that hold the vast majority of profits made in this multibillion dollar industry.

Another defining feature of such binding agreements is that they address a particular issue, such as worker safety in the case of the Accord, or freedom of association in Indonesia.

Furthermore, there must be clauses that make the agreement a binding contract that gives the possibility for legal redress. We also envisage high levels of transparency such as through periodic public reporting on compliance.

Whereas it is desirable for global union federations to be involved in the agreements, local trade unions are meant to play a central role, as signatories and in the implementation and enforcement. Therefore, the agreements should also empower the local trade unions and increase their political space.



Publications

Results: 166 Items

  • November 17, 2022

    Access to customs trade information Open CSO letter

    Our organisations welcome the Commission’s plan to revise the Union Customs legislation and are looking forward to this legislative proposal. With this joint open letter, the undersigned organisations want to urge you to ensure that this upcoming reform will enable non-state actors, such as Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), trade unions, academics, journalists and companies to access trade information with customs that is currently considered confidential by Member States. Existing EU legislation, such as the Timber regulation and the Conflict minerals regulation, and upcoming legislation, such as the Deforestation-free products regulation, Batteries and batteries waste regulation, Forced labour regulation and Corporate sustainability due diligence directive, aim to ensure that human rights and the environment are respected in company value chains. Stakeholder involvement plays an important role in the functioning of all these legal instruments.

  • November 11, 2022

    Deadly safety hazards in factories supplying major international brands show the immediate need for a strong Accord Programme in Pakistan

    A Clean Clothes Campaign brief that was launched today shows that deadly safety incidents and violations occur regularly in Pakistani supplier factories to major brands. These incidents highlight the immediate need for a strong expansion of the International Accord on Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry to Pakistan, as garment worker unions in Pakistan have been calling for since 2018. Every brand which has not yet signed onto the Accord, must do so immediately to protection their workers, especially brands implicated in this brief, such as Levi’s, Gap, and Kontoor brands (Lee, Wrangler).

  • October 20, 2022

    CCC statement in support of Sri Lanka unions fighting repression

    In recent months, the Sri Lankan government increased its repression amidst an economic and political crisis, sending in the army on workers protesting peacefully. Today our partners Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union together with the National Labour Advisory Council Trade union Collective are holding a members rally at the Public Library in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. CCC, Labour Behind The Label, Maquila Solidarity Network, Workers United and War on Want support the unions, who condemn the government’s disregard for the voice of trade unions and demand the Labour Ministry calls for an immediate meeting of the National Labour Advisory Council.

  • October 19, 2022

    CCC statement on labour rights restrictions Ukraine

    Clean Clothes Campaign has declared its solidarity with garment workers and all workers in Ukraine during the Russian invasion. We condemn the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, as we do any act of aggression, invasion and war. We support every serious genuine diplomatic and political initiative, institutional and grassroot, aimed at the withdrawal of Russian troops from the occupied territories and averting the escalation of the conflict which is already seriously impacting the working class and civilian populations in Europe and beyond.

  • September 13, 2022

    Living Wage is Possible: Struggle for living wages in Croatia (2022)

    The increased interest in the subject of living wage in Croatia came in mid-2021, a new method of calculating a living wage for Croatia was presented at the round table “Europe Floor Wage – a living wage is a human right”. The round table also marked the official start of the campaign for a living wage in Croatia. The Coalition for a Living Wage was launched, bringing together several civil society organisations - Pariter, the Centre for Peace Studies, the House of Human Rights, the Base for Workers’ Initiative and Democratization (BRID), Fashion Revolution Croatia, the Centre for Education Counselling and Research (CESI), then the Regional Industrial Union and the Independent Workers' Union of Croatia.

  • August 25, 2022

    The Intersections of Environmental and Social Impacts of the Garment Industry (2022)

    This discussion paper was formulated in consultation with members and partners in the Clean Clothes Campaign network. The paper presents and contextualises known environmental impacts and impacts on climate changes and the intersections with labour rights, human rights, and social issues in the of the global garment sector. The paper aims to provide the Clean Clothes Campaign network and other stakeholders and CSOs with a summary of relevant, up-to-date information about these issues as well as typical responses from industry actors, stakeholders, and civil society. The content of the paper, and the actions outlined should be viewed as the initial steps towards formulating our position on intersections of environmental and social impacts and our goals for a just transition for the global garment industry.

  • July 21, 2022

    The road to an Employment Injury Insurance Scheme in Bangladesh

    The EII pilot programme, launched in June 2022, comes off the back of almost a decade of work and considerable pressure from Bangladeshi trade unions and civil society organisations supported by the Clean Clothes Campaign. To highlight the long history of the EII pilot scheme and the disasters that acted as catalysts for brands and employers, the Clean Clothes Campaign has pulled together a timeline of the process. This timeline tracks the history of the scheme, the bridging solutions that came in between and shows the heavy campaigning that occurred to ensure the pilot was successfully implemented.

  • July 13, 2022

    A LIVING WAGE IS A HUMAN RIGHT - A proposal for Italy, for the fashion industry and beyond

    In this report we specifically address the issue of wages as the first, but not the only, urgent issue we need to act on in order to tackle the problem of in-work poverty and inequality in Italy, starting from the fashion supply chains. The concept of wage we are referring to is the floor living wage adopted by the Clean Clothes Campaign, which can be defined as the value of the net basic wage able to guarantee the worker and his/her family the satisfaction of basic needs and decent living conditions. The net basic pay is calculated without overtime bonuses, before incentives and allowances, and after taxes, taking into account only monetary disbursements.

1 - 8 of 166 Results