Improving labour conditions in the ready-made garment industry

Millions of workers in the textile industry still lack the knowledge and tools to negotiate better working conditions. Violations of their rights continue to be part of the everyday lives of these workers. Low wages that do not amount to a living wage, excessive hours of work, and violence against women at production sites. Combatting these issues requires collaboration from many different stakeholders including governments, trade unions, clothing brands, civil society organisations and the workers themselves.

In the Netherlands, Fair Wear Foundation, CNV Internationaal and Mondiaal FNV recently signed a Partnership Agreement with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The aim is to improve labour conditions and worker rights in readymade garment supply chains in South and Southeast Asia and East Africa.

Tangible results

This unique mix of trade unions, civil society organisations, governments and companies in the sector will provide a better understanding of each actor’s role in the industry. Because of the programme’s emphasis on brands and factories, the partnership will have access to garment supply chains, the ability to work directly to effect change, and evaluate the results. The partnership, and particularly the role of the trade unions, will play a vital role in the social dialogue between workers, unions, employers, and government institutions.
The different projects will allow the organisations to see the effects of their actions on the supply chain, and on the lives of textile and garment workers in the different countries. And the data collected will serve to refine the different programmes of each organisation, further tailoring them to meet the requirements of the specific local, national and regional contexts.

Evidence-based lobby and advocacy

The 5-year partnership, led by Fair Wear Foundation, is part of the Dutch ministry’s “Dialogue and Dissent” 2016-2020 framework and covers projects in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Pakistan and Ethiopia. It provides a unique opportunity for the participating organisations to gather solid evidence that will strengthen their lobby and advocacy work.
It also helps to strengthen trade unions and civil society in the areas where the partnership will be active by engaging in capacity-building activities. Training at production sites enhances workers’ capacity to understand and stand up for their rights. And the involvement of clothing brands means that all actors in the supply chain are part of the change.