How do you assess the progress in Bangladesh of the Alliance and the Accord? Do you believe the deadlines set for inspections and corrections are being met?
The Accord has made huge progress in Bangladesh. Over 700 factories have been inspected and 60 reports covering fire, electrical and building safety as well as corrective action plans have been posted to the Accord website
This level of transparency and cooperation between brands is unprecedented. The increased and public scrutiny of building and safety compliance has in fact drawn more attention to the labour rights situation and IndustriALL is working with its affiliates to improve access to freedom of association, organise the workforce as well as to push for living wages.
How are factories and the government cooperating to ensure safe working conditions in Bangladesh?
In the vast majority of cases, factory owners are cooperating positively with the Accord team to ensure that their factories are safe. In a small number of cases, factory owners have raised concerns about the future of their business but in these cases negotiations with them are continuing to arrive at the best outcome for the factories and the workers.
The government is largely positive towards the efforts but has been reluctant to order certain factories to close down where the Accord has found them to be unsafe and the employers have been resistant. The Accord team continues to engage the government on this issue. Recent comments by the Bangladesh Commerce Minister suggesting that the government would take steps against unions that have drawn attention to violations of labour rights have put the safety of union leaders at risk and IndustriALL has written to the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, to seek a retraction by the government of these comments.
What is the kind of work IGU does in India, and in which sectors? What new programmes are you planning to launch in India?
IndustriALL is supporting the organising drives of affiliates in steel, mining, energy, electronics, textile and garment, and shipbreaking sectors. IndustriALL has a regional office in New Delhi responsible for South Asia.
It is actively involved in coordinating the affiliated unions' efforts in addressing the challenges of precarious work, building trade union networks in multinational companies (in India especially touching the growing automotive industry), enhancing women participation in the labour movement and decision making bodies, creating democratic structures with financial viability and working for sustainable industrial policy with active cooperation of like-minded civil society organisations.
The flagship organising project of Industriall has produced 40,000 new members in the steel industries in five states.
The ship-breaking project has improved working and living conditions including health and safety, giving rise to membership. Organising and union-building in the textile and garment sector is expanding.
Precarious work issue is a global campaign and obviously India with its huge informal and precarious work sector is one of the priority countries.
How is IGU's campaign for living wages progressing around the globe?
IndustriALL's living wage strategy focuses on the mechanisms that will actually deliver living wages to workers, primarily industry-wide collective bargaining and national minimum wage fixing mechanisms. In many garment-producing countries there is no industry bargaining in place and we are working with a number of leading global brands to explore in which countries we can together establish collective bargaining at industry level and thus raise wages while maintaining a level playing field. Recently IndustriALL has joined forces with a number of brands to make joint representation to the Cambodian government on the urgent need to raise wages in the sector and the government has now established a timetable for further increasing garment sector wages.
Also in Bangladesh, IndustriALL and its affiliates continue to push for increased wages as part of our overall objective of making the garment industry in Bangladesh safe and sustainable.
IndustriALL has also identified a number of target countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America where it is working with its affiliates to establish wage agreements that will deliver living wages in the garment sector and other industries where wages are stuck at poverty levels.
Sustainability is one of the issues addressed by IGU. What is the kind of work the IGU is doing in this area. What role can IGU play in the Roadmap to Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals 2020?
Sustainability is one of the most crucial issues facing the world today.
IndustriALL, representing 50 million workers in the entire range of resource extraction, processing, and manufacturing industries, has a responsibility to try to frame the world's debates on sustainable industrial policy. We are the voice of the human side of industry. We take seriously the classic Bruntland definition of sustainability which states that meeting the needs of today must not compromise the ability of future generations to meet theirs; and that "needs" must be understood as the integration of social needs, environmental needs, and economic needs.
Our present work is aimed at developing guidance for our affiliates on sustainable industrial policies that can be pursued at the regional and sectoral levels. This will position us as a forward-looking organisation that takes its responsibilities seriously and thoughtfully. Whether the question is climate change or toxic chemicals, social programmes or human rights, or jobs and the economy, we do not seek simplistic solutions or sound bites. Our vision is a future in which the environment is protected and sustainable industries create decent, safe and healthy work.
The challenge is to build a bridge from where we are now, to the future we must reach: a "Just Transition" for workers, their families, and their communities.
On ZDHC, we share the goal of minimising occupational and environmental exposure to hazardous chemicals, but IndustriALL has only very indirect contact with the "Roadmap to Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals 2020" through the "Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management" (SAICM) and the SAICM initiative on "Chemicals in Products".
Any other developments that you would like to highlight?
Yes, the ongoing battle in Cambodia for a minimum living wage. Global unions have welcomed the release of 23 Cambodian wage protestors arrested following demonstrations in January but remain concerned at the severity of the court verdict and the lack of a fair trial. The trade union movement will continue to fight for a minimum wage of US$ 160 for garment and textile workers and to ensure the protection of workers' rights, decent work and dignity.