Today, October 7th, marks the International Trade Union Confederations’ (ITUC) World Day for Decent Work (WDDW). Started in 2008, the WDDW is an opportunity for trade unions and other organizations to come together around the world to carry out events and activities that highlight the importance of decent work.The International Labor Organization (ILO) defines what decent work is through four strategic objectives. These objectives consist of: “fundamental principles and rights at work and international labor standards; employment and income opportunities; social protection and social security; and social dialogue and tripartism.” Additionally, for decent work to exist these objectives must apply to “all workers, women and men, in both formal and informal economies; in wage employment or working on their own account; in the fields, factories and offices; in their home or in the community.”
One of the vital aspects of decent work is the ability to work for a decent wage. As part of the WDDW, an alliance of over 70 trade unions, labor and human rights organizations, development NGOs, women's rights groups and academics in 17 countries across Asia, Europe and North America launched the Asia Floor Wage (AFW) Campaign today. The Campaign is focusing its attention on elevating the wages of garment workers throughout Asia. This campaign while in its infancy has a chance to really put the pressure on the major players in the garment industry that continue to pay artificially low prices which leave the factories ill-equipped to bargain with workers for any meaningful wage increases.
The central Launch for the AFW campaign took place in New Delhi, India. In addition to the central launch in New Delhi, other launch events were held in other parts of India, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and across Europe and North America. One of the greatest parts of the AFW Campaign is the creativity which is already quite visible. A comic book has been created, posters have been hung, even activists across 11 European countries are participating in events this week.
The campaign recognizes the importance of Asia to the garment industry and the need for workers in this industry to be paid an adequate wage. Approximately 60 per cent of worldwide garment production occurs in Asia. The Industry employs over 100 million workers across Asia; a large portion of which are women. Even though these workers are playing a critical role in maintaining the garment industry, they do not receive adequate wages for what they produce. The AFW campaign notes that these workers currently make about half of what they need to provide the basic needs for themselves and their families.
The AFW Campaign will focus on Tier I garment factories that supply goods to a group of internationally targeted brands with the goal of achieving an AFW throughout the Asian garment industry by 2015. The AFW can be applied to any country and according to the Campaign and is based “on the income required for a single earner to minimally support a family of four (2 adults and 2 children) by working a 48 hour work week.” The income should cover the costs of food, based on a 3,000 calories per day per adult diet, and on non-food costs such as healthcare, education, transportation, fuel, childcare, etc. For more information and specifics about calculating the AFW please click here.
A standard wage across the industry will not only help workers meet the basic needs for themselves and their families, but it will also offer a form or regional collective bargaining. To often when workers try and push for higher wages, the owners of factories threaten to move the factory to another country. So workers are forced to continue working for low wages or risk losing their jobs altogether. A wage standard would prevent capital flight from occurring and not only increase workers standard of living but also offer greater job stability.
The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) supports the efforts of the AFW campaign and recognizes the need for a wage that allows workers to meet their basic needs. In particular, the implementation of an AFW would enhance the lives of women, who make up a large portion of the garment industry workforce. ILRF knows that greater access to employment, such as the jobs provided by the garment industry, has provided women with greater economic and social opportunities, but despite these opportunities many of the jobs that employ women are unregulated and unstable. The AFW would empower women even more and help eliminate many of the disadvantageous that confront women workers. What is most important about the AFW is that is has the potential to improve the lives of a vast amount of workers and possibly set standards that can then be applied to other industries and regions.
For more information about the AFW Campaign and how you can get involved please visit the website for the campaign by clicking here.