Labour repression is thus fundamental to their comparative advantage.
Global brands incentivise these abuses by turning a blind eye, continuing to source from Bangladesh, while squeezing prices.
But they are always met with violence: to deter future activism, & keep costs low.
corporate codes of conduct, independent audits.
But there is very little evidence this improves conditions,
Or strengthens workers' rights.
Insulate factories as islands of better work,
Notwithstanding crackdowns, repression
- which stop workers mobilising for better pay & protections.
Maybe outsiders should try to strengthen trade unions - via capacity building, training, networking, financing, social dialogue?
The threat of dismissals (see 1st tweet), blacklisting, thugs, police brutality, legal obstacles to trade union registration
Aid is nothing compared to the coercive power of the state
Fostering reporting and accountability to external donors
With less incentive for membership recruitment & accountability.
But two problems:
1) Conditionalities aren't always enforced, so don't nec. lead to improvements in situ
2) You're playing a global game of whack-a-mole. Buyers can just source from another country, to avoid costly tariffs.
Nothing has worked thus far
CSR is a con
Organised labour is brutally repressed
Trade-labour conditionalities arent always enforced
I HAVE JUST WRITTEN A PAPER ON WHAT HAS IMPROVED WORKERS' RIGHTS!
Governments may reduce labour repression if they perceive this as conducive to export growth.
This happened in Vietnam & Bangladesh...
In Bangladesh, after global condemnation of Rana Plaza & fears of buyers leaving en masse, the Gov rescinded restrictions on unions.
Both govs introduced pro-labour reforms to promote exports. 💰
Not something you'd openly discuss. Never seeing others talk about it, reformists felt despondent, & stayed quiet.
US Congress insisted on independent unions, as a condition for membership.
This incentivised & legitimised much more open discussions.
Reformists saw wider support & became emboldened!
Cue positive feedback loop!
They perceived pro-labour reforms as conducive to export growth.
The EU also threatened trade sanctions.
So to preserve exports, the Gov reduced restrictions on unions
Activists mobilised! Organised! Registered more unions!
Seeing high-level authorisation, they became more optimistic, so invested in organising.
Went on strike, secured a pay hike.
But never follow through.
So the Gov of Bangladesh ramps up labour repression:
- stopped registering unions
- huge protests in 2016 were met with police violence, mass arrests, dismissals
- and again this year (see first tweet).
Remember I was telling you a 'good news story'...
The Government just announced it would allow independent trade unions!
Many human rights activists saw this as a stepping stone to democratisation!!
He withdrew from TPP.
There is no longer any economic incentive to permit independent trade unions.
In 2018, Vietnam signed other trade agreements (with the EU & CPTPP) but neither insisted on independent unions.
Everything went quiet
Discussions ground to a halt
Labour reform was taken off the legislative agenda
Vietnam passed new laws punishing dissent (closely modeled on China's surveillance laws).
The crackdown increased.
- in Bangladesh's case this meant maintaining existing buyers
- in Vietnam it was about expanding market access through TPP
But the underlying motivation = global economic incentives.
That's bad news for Bangladeshi & Vietnamese workers.
But (and apologies for flippancy), it's good news for science.
Because we can see quite neatly that these govs only rescind repression in the presence of export incentives.
They were still really significant!
Emboldening activists, who tried to mobilise for substantive reform!
I'm not convinced by trade-agreements.
As long as buyers prioritise low prices & can cheaply shift sourcing to other countries, they'll just hop over tariffs, to other cheap, labour repressive places
Making *our* companies liable for abuses in their global supply chains.
Fear of litigation might incentivise more scrupulous sourcing, & abate competition for labour repression.
I'm not so sure.
As of 2018, ALL large French companies must reduce risks of abuses in their supply chains, or else be liable
The Swiss National Council voted for similar legislation
And the Gov of Luxembourg has called on the EU to adopt this!