Dutch signatories of the Agreement on Garment and Textile (AGT) often mention Freedom of Association (FoA) in their action plan as one of the major risks to address. FoA is an important core principle to ensure labour rights in the textile supply chain. It is one of the risks that all companies are obliged to avoid under international guidelines and agreements. At the same time FoA challenges are multifaceted. In addition, the situation of trade unions is different from country to country.
In order to support AGT signatories in this, CNV Internationaal and Mondiaal FNV organized a workshop on 9th October for AGT and FWF member brands to show them how they can identify and address issues regarding Freedom of Association.
Freedom of Association in practice
Also, CNV Internationaal prepared a short video for the participants’ meeting of the Agreement on Garment and Textile last 12 November on the topic to share a concrete example showing how improved social dialogue in a Cambodian garment factory contributes to better labour relations and improvement of working conditions of which benefit both workers and the company.
The right to organize in garment factories
The workshop addressed the underlying principles of FoA and what this means in the practice of the textile supply chain. Freedom of Association is part of the most important guidelines and agreements on human rights and business such as the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and the ILO’s fundamental labour standards.
In order to achieve any, and particularly sustainable, progress in labour rights, it is essential that workers are facilitated to organise themselves and get a seat at the table where their labour conditions are determined.
However, although in most garment producing countries the right to organize is embedded in national laws, implementation is often lacking and compliance is not always checked. Trade union landscapes vary from country to country.
During the workshop, information was shared with the 12 Dutch textile brands attending on what they can do to promote Freedom of Association in their production chain. Based on concrete challenges of participating brands and experiences of trade union experts and representatives present from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam and India, the workshop gave the opportunity to discuss more in depth what the specific challenges regarding Freedom of Association are in these countries.
Concrete situations in various sourcing countries were discussed. Practical advice was also shared on how to navigate as sourcing brand if trade unions and workers’ rights are obstructed by government and factories.
To learn more
CNV Internationaal and FNV also developed a practical small checklist on Social Dialogue and Freedom of Association for brands to use during factory visits. It is available in various languages.
If you wish to know more on the issue or is you wish to receive hard copies of the checklist or our booklet on Freedom of Association, just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +31 30 751 1260.
Publication date 15 01 2020