Mark Anner, Esther Busser, Michael Fichter, Tandiwe Gross, Frank Hoffer, Jenny Holdcroft, Praveen Jha, Adam Lee, Maité Llanos, Ron Oswald, Victor Hugo Ricco, and Christoph Scherrer

Decent Work in Global Supply Chains

  • Early 2017
  • Self-Paced
  • English
  • Interdisciplinary

About this course

According to the UN organization UNCTAD, 80% of trade takes place in global supply chains linked to transnational corporations. Governed by powerful transnational corporations, these global supply chains set the ‘rules of the game’ of today’s global production system. For the majority of workers, this production system translates into poverty wages, excessive working hours, unsafe workplaces and repression of workers’ right to form and join democratic trade unions.
This course offers a careful mix of video lectures and interviews, readings, online resources, and exercises to gain both knowledge and practical skills for promoting decent work in global supply chains. In some countries, the online learning experience will be complemented with local workshops for a truly global learning experience.

The course started with a Facebook live discussion with Prof. Dr. Mark Anner on 12 January 2017. You can see the recording here

This is a free self-paced course in which you can study at your own pace. You can enrol for free in the audit track and - if you wish - get a Statement of Participation for 29 € once you've finished the course. Once per year, we will offer the option to get a Certificate for 49 € after passing an online exam. The Global Labour University may offer scholarships to participants from non-OECD countries to do a Certificate for free. If you wish to get a Certificate for this course, please start studying in the audit track and you will be informed about the next exam period and the scholarship option.

If you work for a university, trade union or any other labour-related institution you are welcome to integrate the course material into your education and training programmes. All video lectures and interviews, readings, online resources, and exercises can be downloaded separately and used for free.

What will I learn

This course discusses the particularities and strategies of transnational corporations as actors orchestrating global supply chains, as well as their impact on labour relations worldwide. It looks at regulatory frameworks for trade, investment and taxation, and explores whether global supply chains contribute to development. After presenting the major decent work gaps in today’s global supply chains, the course will look at the existing governance framework and its gaps. What are the governance gaps and what are strategies and tools for an alternative governance structure that promotes sustainable development and decent work in global supply chains?

What do I need to know?

The course requires a working level of English and draws on the fields of political science and law at the level of a Masters’ programme. However, theoretical concepts are explained in an accessible and well-illustrated way, so it is also possible to participate in the course using skills and knowledge acquired outside formal education.

Course Structure

You can study at your own pace- any time you want. The estimated workload is 3-4 hours per week.

Chapter 1: Introduction to global supply chains 
This chapter introduces the evolution and drivers of global supply chains as today’s dominant production system. It discusses whether the “East-Asian miracle” countries can serve as an example for development through global supply chains and explores the architecture and strategies of transnational corporations. Participants will be invited to introduce themselves and share relevant material in an interactive world map.

Chapter 2: The regulatory framework on trade, investment and taxation
 Chapter two provides an overview of the evolution and characteristics of the global trade system and the framework of investment and taxation. Who sets the rules? How does dispute settlement work in today’s trade regime? What are the implications of these rules for human and workers’ rights, social justice and the environment?

Chapter 3: Global supply chains and development

This chapter discusses the role of global wage hierarchies and investment policies as drivers of global supply chains and explores their impact on development. What can we learn from the example of the extractive industries in Africa, and from the impact of privatization on public services? In which way do global supply chains rely on forced and child labour. How does insertion into global supplies chains affect middle-income countries?

Chapter 4: Decent work gaps in global supply chains
 Featuring the ITUC’s general secretary Sharan Burrow, this chapter explores the different levels of decent work gaps in global supply chains. It looks at the fragmentation of labour and the realities of informal economy workers at the bottom of many global supply chains.

Chapter 5: Key elements of the existing governance framework How are global supply chains governed today? What are the main instruments of Corporate Social Responsibility, what do the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights say and how does the complaints mechanism under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises work? Given the existence of these mechanisms, why do massive workers’ rights violations in global supply chains continue?

Chapter 6: Negotiated governance - strategies on the company and industry level

This chapter explores innovative strategies on the company and industry level to improve working conditions and voice and representation of workers, including Global Framework Agreements, the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety and IndustriALL’s ACT Initiative. What can we learn from them and how can they be extended?

Chapter 7: Regulating global supply chains - strategies on the political and legal level (23 February – 1 March)
What are the most promising political and legal strategies to realize decent work in global supply chains? This chapter combines the voices of international experts from the policy and legal fields and looks at the most common arguments of employers against the regulation of global supply chains. It closes with an overview of the way forward.

Chapter 8: Campaigning to win – strategies and tools
Even the best knowledge is useless without the right tools to push for change. Drawing on successful campaigns, this chapter explains the key methods and tools of strategic corporate research and campaigning as well as hands-on skills on how to use technology and communication to promote decent work in global supply chains.

Study time if you have decided to participate in the exam

Course options

Audit Track (for free)

  • No requirements
  • optional Statement of Participation (29 €)

For obtaining your Statement of Participation in the Audit Track, you need to complete 80% of the video lectures and quizzes. You can get the Statement of Participation inside the course under the "Upgrade" tab.

Certificate of Accomplishment (49 €)
You follow the course for free but if you want to get a certification you can upgrade inside the course. The requirements for gaining a Certificate of Accomplishment and a Certificate Supplement in the Certificate Track are:

  • Completion of 80% of the video lectures and quizzes
  • Completion of the Multiple Choice Exam within 120 minutes.
  • Successful upgrade to the Certificate of Accomplishment (49€)

The exam for the Certificate of Accomplishment will be offered once per year. If you wish to get a Certificate for this course, please start studying in the audit track and you will be informed about the next exam period and the option of getting a scholarship from the Global Labour University if you come from a Non-OECD country.

The questions in the Multiple Choice Exam will be based on the video lectures and quizzes of all chapters. If you belong to the best 10%, this achievement will be stated in the Certificate of Accomplishment. During the exam week, you can choose freely when you would like to start the exam.  You can start studying in the Audit Track and then decide to upgrade to the Certificate Track until 3 weeks after the course start.

Course team

Prof. Dr. Mark Anner (Associate Professor of Labor and Employment Relations, and Political Science, Penn State University, USA)
Esther Busser (Deputy Director, Geneva Office of the International Trade Union Confederation)
Dr. Michael Fichter (Senior Lecturer, Global Labour University, Germany)

Tandiwe Gross (Associate Expert, Bureau for Workers’ Activities, ILO)
Dr. Frank Hoffer (Executive Director, ACT Foundation)
Jenny Holdcroft (Assistant General Secretary, IndustriALL Global Union)
Prof. Dr. Praveen Jha (Professor for Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India)
Maité Llanos (Project coordinator, Global Labour University)
Adam Lee ( Organizing and Campaign Director, IndustriALL Global Union)
Ron Oswald (General Secretary, International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations)
Victor Hugo Ricco (Senior Specialist, Bureau for Workers’ Activities, ILO)

Prof. Dr. Christoph Scherrer (Professor for Globalization and Politics, Social Science Department of the University of Kassel, Germany)


International experts

Guy Ryder (Director-General, ILO)
Sharan Burrow (Secretary-General, ITUC)
Philip Jennings (Secretary-General, UNI Global Union)
Maria Helena André (Director, Bureau for Workers’ Activities, ILO)
Beate Andrees (Chief, Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Branch, ILO)
Victor Baez (General-Secretary, Trade Union Confederation of the Americas)
Dr. Carolina Baltar (Lecturer, University of Campinas)
Jane Barrett (Director, Organization and Representation Department, WIEGO)
Daniel Bertossa (Director Policy and Governance, Public Services International)
Aaron Brenner (Capital markets analyst, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union)
Dr. Kate Bronfenbrenner (Director of Labor Education Research, Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations)
Eddie Cottle (Project Leader, Labour Research Service, South Africa)
Kirstine Drew (Senior policy advisor to the Trade Union Advisory Council to the OECD)
Prof. Dr. Jayati Ghosh (Professor of Economics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, India)
Claudia Meyer (Director of DGB Bildungswerk, Germany)
Hilma Mote (Executive Director at Africa Labour Research and Education Institute-ITUC-Africa, Togo)
James Musonda (Ph.D. candidate at Liege University, Belgium)
Sandra van Niekerk (Researcher at Public Services International’s research unit, South Africa)
Walton Pantland (Communication Officer, IndustriALL)
Cherrisse Fredricks (Communications Officer, IndustriALL)
Peter Rossman (Director of international campaigns and communications at the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations)
Jeffrey Vogt (Solidarity Centre)
Prof. Dr. Reingard Zimmer (Professor for Labour Law at Berlin School of Economics and Law, Germany)

Image Copyright (above): ILO/Crozet M