The pandemic has highlighted that global value chains are very delicate creatures – they can be disrupted and changed easily in a world economy that is highly interdependent and vulnerable to shocks. Right before the Christmas session, some of us might fear that the goods they order online do not arrive in time – or even worse, that they face empty shelfs. For those working and organizing along different tiers of global value chain, these worries might seem insignificant. They struggle with inhuman working and living conditions, low wages and the always present fear of losing their job. Public discussions on corporate and consumers social responsibility have certainly heightened awareness, but how much change have they brought about? What legal tools and tactics are available or still need to be created in order to strengthen due diligence and accountability of corporations?
A lot has happened already. Over the course of the past decade, remarkable changes have occurred with regard to protecting workers and those who fight for their rights. Since the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights went into force in 2011, labour organisations have joined hands to create an increasing number of legally binding mechanisms to hold multinational enterprises responsible for worker’s rights violations. Recently, within the context of the European Union, the debate on mandatory human rights due diligence has gained significant traction.
There are hence new and exciting opportunities to make the voices of workers from production countries heard and to protect their rights. The journey undertaken in the corporate accountability landscape over the past years was initiated by a combination of tragic and traumatic events, for example in Pakistan and Bangladesh in the early 2010s. They, along with the tireless engagement of labour rights activists and movements, have resulted in a momentum to create legally binding obligations for lead firms and accountability mechanisms for workers in the suppling factories.
In the analysis entitled Transnational Legal Tactics for Labour, Michael Bader and Miriam Saage-Mass of ECCHR show us how to grab these opportunities. They place labour and human rights issues within the context of the current global economy. More importantly, they make us enter their legal hardware store and explain the toolbox and tools that are available to labour movements. In doing so, they depict and analyse the instruments of global framework agreements, enforceable brand agreements, multi-stakeholder initiatives, compensation funds, OECD Guidelines and National Contact Points, transnational litigation and last, but not least, mandatory human rights due diligence. Regarding the latter, they help us understand the strength and weakness of evolving and existing laws and thereby empower us to mobilise for the coming and continuing struggles of implementation and legal enforcement.
This is a must-read analysis for those who seek to shape the change. It inspires us to seize not only the day, but to seize the future, employing and enriching transnational legal tactics and strategies that ensure corporate accountability.
You find further information on this subject if you read the study linked below.
Miriam Saage-Maaß is a lawyer and vice legal director at the European Center For Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).
Michael Bader is Bertha Justice Fellow in ECCHR’s Institute for Legal