|Ass.Prof. Dr. Stefanie Huertgen
|Thema der Dissertation
|Die Herausbildung von Labour Agency in der globalen Bekleidungsindustrie. Eine Untersuchung multiskalarer Strategiebildung im Netzwerk von lokalen Gewerkschaften, NGOs und Regulierungsmechanismen am Beispiel zweier indischer Bekleidungsgewerkschaften
For a long time, the predominant image of the global garment industry was one of a footloose industry. Dominated by large transnational retailers, small manufacturers would produce for markets in the Global North and a fierce competition would force manufacturers to cut costs or otherwise face relocation of production. Trade unions face harsh repression and unionisation is weak. Therefore trade unions have relied on the support of transnational advocacy networks to improve working conditions. Using the language of human rights violations and drawing on the image of victimised workers, unions and networks built pressure on transnational retailers to accept accountability for the working conditions in their suppliers. Research indicates that even though these campaigns helped to rectify single violations and rose awareness for the working conditions, they did not contribute to a shift in the balance of forces.
But latest with the beginning of the financial crisis, industry has changed. In South Asia, there has been a shift towards consolidation. The largest manufacturers in Bangladesh today own several factories spread across the country and similarly in India and Sri Lanka. Post-Rana Plaza, safety standards are forcing manufacturers to shift to rural areas both for ensuring certain workplace standards, for expansion to scale up and to new areas. New management techniques and new technologies are being employed to increase productivity.
These changes have fueled debates on viable trade union strategies. Based on my empirical research in the South Indian ready made garment industry I want to present and analyse these debates. What are their reference points? What is their understanding of the industry? What are the tactics and long-term strategies? How do these strategies relate to existing transnational links and how are trade unions pro-actively trying to reshape alliances?