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Trade Union Messages at the OECD Forum on Responsible Business Conduct

28 May 2020

This year, the OECD Forum on Responsible Business Conduct is being presented virtually and in two parts.  The first video forum took place 19 May and covered topics related to responsible business, resilient supply chains, government policies and social dialogue in response to the Covid 19 pandemic.  Trade union leaders provided powerful statements in three of the four sessions on the day.

More than one thousand people heard themes raised by workers around the world.  Trade union leaders advocated for recreating supply chains with a commitment to collective bargaining, minimum social protections and mandatory due diligence as the only hope we have for supply chain resiliency.

ITUC General Secretary, Sharan Burrow, kicked things off with a composite of worker perspectives that reverberated throughout the Forum.  Framing this crisis as more pervasive than Covid-19, Secretary Burrow situated the crisis as a “convergence of negative practices leading to income inequality, climate degradation, gender inequality, and fundamental human rights abuses.  All of these consequences must be addressed to reverse their crippling effects on businesses and workers.”

Secretary Burrow was joined by IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary, Jenny Holdcroft in highlighting an urgent need for financial support, such as the call to action by trade unions, business and the ILO for measures that would support the garment industry supply chain.

The second session covered innovative initiatives leading to responsible business outcomes in global supply chains.  Secretary Holdcroft shared progress being made by a  living wage initiative in collaboration with several textile brands, suppliers and manufacturers (ACT).  Secretary Holdcroft made clear there would be “limited capacity for implementation by multinational enterprises that do not participate in inclusive initiatives for responsible business.”

All trade union officers emphasised the importance of remaking supply chains with collectively bargained structures going forward.  In the third session dealing with government responses to Covid-19, UNI Global Union General Secretary, Christy Hoffman stressed the urgent need for policies that support tripartite dialogue throughout supply chains. “The presence of collective bargaining has made a big difference in the implementation and enactment of relief packages, along with workplace health and safety. The world needs active government policies, including through spending and procurement, to support collective bargaining across sectors, and employer accountability and mandatory due diligence from start to finish, including through the supply chain.”

Part two of the forum will resume on 17 June with an afternoon devoted to the subject of remediation in the context of Covid-19.  The complete agenda, videos of all the presentations and registration are available on the Forum website.