ACT: Towards living wages in global supply chains

ACT (Action, Collaboration, Transformation): A collaborative process towards living wages for workers in global textile and garment supply chains.

“Real innovation, spawned by a keen sense of urgency, and solidified through new forms of partnership.” - ETI, Living Wages in Global Supply Chains, 2015.

HiiL Innovating Justice works together with leading brands & retailers to achieve living wages in textile and garment supply chains. ACT (“Action, Collaboration, Transformation”) is an initiative between international brands & retailers, manufacturers, and trade unions to address the issue of living wages in the textile and garment supply chain.

ACT currently has 17 participating brands with active interest from new brands. The brands have signed a set of Enabling Principles amongst each other and have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with IndustriALL Global Union.

“We are working in a way that we have never been able to do before, with brands that want to make a difference.” - Jenny Holdcroft, Policy Director, IndustriALL Global Union.

HiiL supports ACT
Our clients asked us to support and facilitate their collaborative process and to ensure implementation and follow-up of their strategic plans to establish industry-wide collective bargaining for workers in the global garment and textile supply chain.

Our role as HiiL is to bring trust, transparency and a balanced representation of the different stakeholders as a neutral third party. With our support, ACT has been able to bring together different stakeholders with different interests. The brands have agreed on the Enabling Principles, have signed an Memorandum of Understanding and have started work on the first country programme in Cambodia.

HiiL supports the partners involved to develop their strategies and actions jointly in a sphere of innovation. We support the brands to work transparently, collaboratively and in good faith to ensure the mutual responsibilities. We help the relevant partners to explore different solutions, make room for imperfection and continuously adapt their strategies to ensure implementation of their joint goals. We encourage them to jointly drive a new culture of trust and participation between all relevant actors.

Why is an initiative on living wages needed?
Brands & retailers are increasingly aware that raising wages of workers in the textile and garment supply chain to a ‘living wage’ is something that cannot be achieved by retailers and brands alone.

“What is needed is a way to fix wages at a fair level that applies to all workers, no matter which brand they make clothes for.” - Aleix Gonzalez Busquets, Senior CSR and Supply Chain Manager, C&A.

ACT is the first global framework on living wages in the garment sector that brings together all relevant stakeholders; identifying what each stakeholder’s role and responsibility is, and how, if taken together, this can support living wages in a scaled up, sustainable, industry-wide approach.

How will ACT achieve this?
ACT aims to improve wages in the industry by establishing industry collective bargaining in key garment and textile sourcing countries, supported by world class manufacturing standards and responsible purchasing practices.

What is industry collective bargaining?
Industry collective bargaining is a mechanism that brings together national representatives of manufacturers and workers - namely employer associations and trade unions - to negotiate and agree wages and conditions what will apply to a whole industry sector within that country. The collective agreements that result are legally binding and enforceable.

Why is industry collective bargaining vital to achieving living wages?
Industry collective bargaining differs from collective bargaining at an individual factory level as it means that ALL workers and manufacturers in the garment sector within that country can negotiate their wages under the same conditions, regardless of which factory they work for, and which retailers and brands they produce for.

Benefits of industry collective bargaining agreements:

  • Labour costs are taken out of competition
  • All workers are included
  • Factories adhere to the same labour standards
  • A level playing field for manufacturers
  • Increased compliance among employers
  • Reduced conflict at the workplace

There are very few examples of industry collective bargaining agreements within key garment and textile sourcing countries. This is why retailers & brands, trade unions and manufacturers are working towards this goal.

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Project details

Project leader: Henk Jan Scholten
Team members: Corry van Zeeland, Maurits Barendrecht
Duration: 2014-2016