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Decent Work in Global Supply Chains

Unit 5, Lecture 4 - Gaps in the existing framework

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Key gaps of existing instruments (UNGPs, OECD Guidelines and CSR) are that they are either driven by business (CSR and private initiatives) or hosted by international organizations w/ limited or no voices for trade unions. Another import feature is that they are all voluntary mechanism and provisions that are therefore difficult to enforce legally.

There is a wide and growing patchwork of instruments, merely voluntary in nature, which lack enforceability. These instruments largely ignore workers as agents and power asymmetries in global supply chains (w/ buyers dictating prices and conditions) and therefore underestimate the importance of creating and extending spaces of Collective Bargaining and the role of purchasing practices of buyers.

CSR industry has helped keep wages low and working conditions poor and has provided public relations cover for producers. Workers and their unions rarely play a role in the voluntary systems that corporations have chosen to support in order to ensure compliance with worker rights and workplace standards. CSR is frequently used as a means of undermining freedom of association and collective bargaining. Ultimately governments must fulfill their responsibility to implement labor laws that comply with ILO standards.

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