Creating an enabling environment for social dialogue

Many different actors can influence whether the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining are respected and therefore whether impactful social dialogue can take place. The policies and practices of brands, agents, governments and even consumers play a role. That’s why at Fair Wear we believe that work needs to be done at all levels of the supply chain to create a positive environment for workers and their representatives to have meaningful discussions.

The process of social dialogue happens directly between workers (via their representatives) and employers (and sometimes government), so neither Fair Wear nor our member brands are directly involved in the process. However effective social dialogue ultimately requires supportive structures throughout the supply chain and industry and there is a lot of work that we can do to create an environment where social dialogue is possible.

Fair Wear’s role in fostering supportive structures for social dialogue

First, we work with our member brands to guide them on improving their purchasing practices to support these rights and on how to engage and support their suppliers in this process. Fair Wear’s Policy on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining outlines the expectations of member brands in this area, and the accompanying ‘Brand Guide on FoA and CB’ provides six concrete steps on actions brands can take to create an enabling environment. These steps aim to address both the systemic challenges to freedom of association and social dialogue (sourcing decisions, legal frameworks, and less than ideal power of trade unions) as well as factory specific challenges that workers face (retaliation, violations of FoA and lack of knowledge and capacity). When member brands work on these six steps they are helping to make concrete opportunities for workers to engage in social dialogue.

Fair Wear, with our partners also focuses on through lobbying for improved legal frameworks – both in producing and market countries – to ensure that strong laws are in place to protect these rights for workers. We engage directly with suppliers and employers’ associations to help build their capacity and willingness to engage in social dialogue via training and supplier seminars. We also partner with trade unions and labour rights organisations in producing countries in hopes of amplifying their voices on behalf of the workers. We anticipate a role for Fair Wear as a convener of committed and like-minded stakeholders in production countries to engage in dialogue and share important insights and expertise to help drive industry change.

Check out some of the projects on Social Dialogue that Fair Wear and our partners have recently worked on:

Social Dialogue in the 21st Century Project

Fair Wear brings unions and suppliers together in North India

New Labour Code in Vietnam: important steps for improving workers’ rights

New Good Practice Case Study: Promoting Social Dialogue