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Analysing the Evolving Texture of Transnational Industrial Relations: Opening the Black Box of Interfirm and Firm-Union Relationships in the Global Garment Industry

Herausgeber_in: Garment Supply Chain Governance Discussion Paper Series, No. 01/2017

Autor_innen: Rachel Alexander, Sarah Ashwin, Nora Lohmeyer, Chikako Oka, Elke Schüßler

Schlagwörter: Arbeitsrechtsverletzungen, CSR, Gewerkschaft, Lieferkette


Faced with limits of the dominant forms of private regulation, lead firms in global production networks (GPNs) are increasingly turning towards new approaches involving more collective and labour-inclusive approaches to tackle substandard labour conditions. Two notable examples of such new governance initiatives in the global garment industry are the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (the   Bangladesh Accord)   developed in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza disaster, and Action Collaboration Transformation (ACT), a living wage initiative spearheaded by a group of garment brands and retailers. What is unique about these agreements is that they are inclusive of trade unions (local and/or global) and transnational in nature, covering supply chains of multiple multinational corporations. These initiatives, which we term transnational collective industrial relations, stand in stark contrast to firm-specific, unilateral corporate codes of conduct, which have been the dominant model of private governance since the 1990s.

This paper explores evolving relationships among lead firms and other stakeholders in the emerging field of transnational industrial relations. Considering the experiences of major German and UK garment retailers and brands, we examine how involvement in transnational collective industrial relations has influenced lead firms’ relationships to other stakeholders, particularly rival firms and unions. Data considered is mainly based on interviews with German and UK garment lead firms and members of global union federations (GUFs). Initial findings indicate that lead firms increasingly view GUFs as important and legitimate partners for managing labour challenges in GPNs. Lead firms also positively describe intensified collaboration with rival firms. We discuss whether evolving interfirm and firm-union relations in the global garment industry can be seen as promising steps towards institutionalizing collective forms of transnational labour regulation with potentially better outcomes for labour standards. Through this research, we seek to contribute to the literature on global labour governance by shedding light on the foundation of new governance solutions, particularly the dynamically evolving relationships among lead firms and other stakeholders as collective actors.

Erscheinungsjahr: 2017

Umfang: 21 Seiten

Sprache: Englisch

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