ITF Welcomes ILO Global Supply Chain Justice Breakthrough

The ITF is welcoming the announcement made at the ILO (International Labour Organization) International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva on Friday that could lead to the creation of new international standards to protect those working in global supply chains. 

Speaking from the site, ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) general secretary Steve Cotton explained: “The ILC has recommended – and empowered – this vital UN body, the ILO, to act to protect countless workers worldwide. Currently many of them are defenceless, victimised and exploited, as the shocking recent investigations into slavery in the fisheries sector have shown. For others conditions and job security range from good to near zero. This breakthrough move could lead to protections as positive and inclusive as the ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention 2006.”

He continued: “As this debate acknowledges, supply chains are an integral part of how we live today. They can be a force for good, for jobs and quality of life. But for increasing numbers of workers in them they are the opposite. As our colleague, the worker’s group vice president Catelene Passchier, said: ‘Everyone is connected but no-one is responsible’. We need accountability and governance, particularly from the  ‘economic employer’, the lead firm in the supply chain. We need standards that apply wherever the supply chain reaches. There can be no excuses, no exemptions, no blaming abuses on the local management just because it’s a subcontractor or far from the home country.” 

ITF president Paddy Crumlin commented: “This is an important breakthrough on accountability. The investigative work by the trade union movement and journalists that has exposed near slavery and child labour in supply chains is an appalling indictment of some corporate behaviour and regulatory negligence. Less extreme, but also wholly unacceptable, is the race to the bottom dictated by many firms at the top of supply chains, leading to low wages, low protections, long hours and dangerous conditions, harassment, effective invisibility and an undermining of all that an employee/employer relationship must  stand for legally, as well as morally 

“Friday’s decision reflects the chance for a new era. It has been vigorously supported by the global trade union movement. All our unions must now redouble our endeavours to offer the benefits of union membership to workers along the supply chain using the ILO outcome to support this.”

ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) general secretary Sharan Burrow stated: “Transparency, responsibility and accountability need to be associated with global supply chains, not unsafe, insecure low wage work. The ITUC recently found a hidden workforce of 116 million workers in the global supply chains of just 50 multinational companies, or 94 percent of their total supplier workforce, with most companies failing to accept responsibility for a minimum living wage, job security or decent working conditions.

The ITUC statement on the outcome is available here