Workers depend on independent trade unions and collective organising to protect their rights because existing resolution mechanisms in Cambodia do not work effectively. With effective and strong independent unions, workers enjoy better working conditions and wages as well as being able to draw attention from authorities, suppliers and brands to listen when issues arise and engage in a resolution process. Without unions’ voice, workers are powerless.Yang Sophorn, President of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions
Global inequalities in power allow the profit maximisation model of businesses to shape a global economy that prioritises profit over people. The dominance of this model facilitates various forms of exploitation including poverty wages, discrimination and violence, crackdowns on trade unions and collective organising, rising precarity of work, and lack of social protections. This labour exploitation and the relationship with lead brands and retailers is often obscured by the complex and opaque network of global supply chains.
This Big Issue area collects the latest news on labour rights issues in global supply chains, as well as our work to support and advance the labour rights demands of workers and the organisations representing them.
In December 2021 we published a Tea Transparency Tracker, the first tool of its kind for the industry, building upon lessons and tools on supply chain transparency in the fashion industry. It directly links companies to the tea plantations they source from, allowing workers and consumers alike to know where the tea goes. However, many companies are still choosing to hide supply chain lists, effectively allowing dangerous and exploitative working conditions to remain concealed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities for workers in supply chains, with migrant workers especially vulnerable. Our work on the COVID-19 apparel action tracker, brief on union busting and report on wage theft in apparel supply chains has analysed the impact of company actions on workers during the pandemic and reveals a stark gap between human rights policy and practice.
Our 275 apparel company dashboards provide labour rights advocates and unions easy-to-access information about company performance and actions in protecting and respecting the rights of garment workers in their supply chains.
Our other work includes strengthening corporate transparency and accountability for migrant rights in the construction and hospitality sectors in Qatar and the UAE; engaging brands and others on Syrian refugees in Turkish garment factories; and leading the development of the KnowTheChain benchmarks, alongside the project partners with Humanity United, Verité, and Sustainalytics.
Unpicked: Fashion & Freedom of Association
We interviewed 24 trade union leaders and surveyed 124 union activists and labour advocates in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka on freedom of association during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly two thirds (61%) said the situation for freedom of association and collective bargaining has “got worse” since the pandemic.
Myanmar garment worker allegations tracker
Myanmar’s military illegally seized power on 1 February 2021. Through collaboration with partners and allies inside and outside Myanmar, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is monitoring the significant increase in labour and human rights abuses of garment workers across the country since the military takeover.
Garment worker abuse in India’s factories has intensified due to fashion brands’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Asia Floor Wage Alliance and Society for Labour & Development.
13m tea plantation workers have suffered from endemic human rights abuses, while the tea companies they pick for have evaded responsibility for their supply chain workers. We approached 65 tea companies urging them to reveal where they source from and how they carry out due diligence.
Apparel Company Dashboards
Company pages for 275 global fashion companies providing easy-to-access information about company performance and actions in protecting and respecting the rights of garment workers in their supply chains.
COVID-19 Apparel Action Tracker
Monitoring garment industry responses, government actions and workers’ demands during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Human rights implications and legal and policy rights protection frameworks for gig economy workers
A resource for companies and investors to address forced labor in global supply chains.
Beyond Social Auditing
Numerous reports have found the social audits to be ineffective in capturing human rights abuses. What are the solutions and options for reform?
Trade and corporate accountability
News and analysis covering the overlap between international trade agreements and labour abuse