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World Day for Decent Work

Issued on October 22, 2009 at 01:00 PM

wddw photo2 - Stacey Dooley, Tara Scott, John Douglas, Silvana Capuccio and Sally Anne Kinahan.
Stacey Dooley, Tara Scott, John Douglas, Silvana Capuccio and Sally Anne Kinahan.

Solidarity with the garment workers in the global south.

On the 7th of October, the World Day for Decent Work, ICTU Global Solidarity organised a meeting "Recession Ethics - how the current crisis effects garment workers in the Global South and retail workers here".

The meeting in the Teachers' Club in Dublin, attracted more than 40 people, and was chaired by Sally-Ann Kinahan, the Assistant General Secretary of ICTU. She emphasised the importance of solidarity in the trade union movement for securing decent work for workers across the world.

Increased exploitation

Silvana Capuccio from the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation (ITGLWF) outlined how workers are always at the forefront of historical and social changes and during the current crisis are the first to be affected.

Highlighting the years of unregulated production that has made decent work an unrealised goal, Silvana spoke about how in the global south wages have fallen by 25% while working hours have increased by 25% and buyers are now driving down the price paid to suppliers by as much as 30%. These costs are passed on to the worker.

The ITGLWF is campaigning for "the living wage" which Silvana said must come from brands and retailers paying suppliers a fair price for production. Crucially, workers worldwide must have the right to organise and bargain collectively to secure their living wage.

Child labour exploitation is s serious problem and continuous short-term contracting has become commonplace. While it is not unusual to hear about the outsourcing of labour from the north to the south, Silvana pointed out that the migrant labour force is moving, and is often trafficked, from the South to the outer peripheries of the South to Export Processing Zones. These textile workers, mostly women, endure appalling working and living conditions and are exposed to new illnesses, isolation and social marginalisation. Silvana emphasised the need of constant monitoring and a good system of industrial relations on a global scale would start to promote a decent work agenda.

Love Fashion - Hate Sweatshops

Tara Scott and Stacey Dooley, who took part in the BBC programme 'Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts, spoke about their experience of working in sweatshops in India. This experience had a huge impact on their lives and it also affected their opinions about clothing. Both said they now think a lot more about where, and from whom, high street fashion comes. In the UK, Tara and Stacey are campaigning under the theme "Love Fashion. Hate Sweatshops" and they emphasised the need of Ethical Fashion.

John Douglas, the General Secretary of MANDATE, reminded the audience that Irish retail workers in the clothing sector live on low incomes and are similarly affected by the global recession. John pointed out that the present day contracting costs in business are also passed on to workers in Ireland and it was important to realise how widespread this was. John agreed with Silvana that a global and vibrant trade union movement is essential for securing decent work for all workers.

Clean Clothes Campaign

At the meeting ICTU Global Solidarity also launched the new resource "Ethical Consumerism - A Guide for Trade Unions". You can find the resource by clicking here.

The meeting concluded with a discussion on the need of an Irish branch of the "Clean Clothes Campaign" (CCC). If you are interested to take part in the work of establishing an Irish CCC, please contact the Global Solidarity Office.

On the 8th of October a second World Day for Decent Work meeting (with the same main speakers) was organised in Belfast by ICTU Global Solidarity in conjunction with UNISON. Patricia McKeown, the regional secretary of UNISON, chaired the meeting which was attended by more than 20 people. Several of them also expressed an interest to work with a future Irish Branch of the Clean Clothes Campaign.