Gender and unionisation

By | Uncategorized

Gender and unionisation

Garment workers are predominantly women (in Asian countries an average of 70-80% of workers is female), often in low-paying positions with little power. However, they are under-represented in social dialogue structures. Ensuring the right to FoA and CB is vital in order to allow workers’ voices to be heard and support their bargaining power. Women often have lower rates of unionization and union leadership tends to be male; therefore, women’s rights issues may not be well represented or considered to be important priorities.

Barriers to women’s access to unions/ worker representation (click here for more)

  • Women are commonly in atypical forms of work, such as temporary or part-time work, or home-based work. Workers in such precarious positions tend to unionize less.
  • In addition to working at their jobs, women often do the majority of unpaid care work (at home), including housework, childcare, and elder care. Therefore, they have less time than men to dedicate to trade union activities.
  • Religious and cultural norms and constraints around women in leadership and decision-making roles are prevalent.
  • Trade unions have historically been male-dominated, which has often created an unwelcoming environment for women to break in to.
  • Women may face restrictions on their movement or access to spaces where negotiations may occur due to gender-based security problems.
  • Female trade unionists may face a higher risk of sexual violence or harassment.

Fair Wear has developed Gender fact sheets for 11 garment producing countries, which present overviews of relevant gender issues per country.

Why should women be included? (click here for more)

Including women in unions and allowing their voices to be heard when developing union policies and strategies and CBAs can have a significant impact on women garment workers. Women (might) have different needs, and in a male dominated industry, it is important for them to be able to work in a safe and secure environment and get the same opportunities and remuneration as men. Unions with adequate female representation will think more about childcare facilities, clean toilets, hygienic conditions, maternity benefits, anti-violence, and grievance and remediation mechanisms into your suppliers’ company’s labour strategies and collective bargaining agreements.

More information

More detailed information on gender and social dialogue can be found at:

When making field visits to do company audits, be sure to raise specific questions about female representation at management, supervisory, and work floor levels. For more information, see BSR and Amfori.

A Social Labor for Social Dialogue: A Proposal to Improve Working Conditions for Women in the Guatemalan Apparel Industry

By | Guatemala, Social dialogue


The only two independent unions in the Guatemalan apparel industry are suffering a decline in union membership and have become impotent against management bullying. Guatemalan women workers, who make up 80 percent of the apparel industry workforce, face entrenched impediments to their participation in organized labor, effectively preventing them from improving workplace conditions. The underlying reason is that the Guatemalan culture of machismo creates physical and social barriers that deny women the opportunity to develop and exercise their agency in the workplace or in their union. This presents a quandary for legal and social schemes that rely on union-inspired worker activism to improve workplace conditions but that fail to consider the gender context that stunts women’s participation in organized labor. This paper proposes the Trade Fair Label, a social labeling scheme based on worker-manager social
dialogue units, that addresses the shortcomings of oft-utilized corporate social responsibility schemes and that defies the impediments created by the culture of machismo.


For the original source, please click here.


Ending and Preventing Violence Against Women at the Workplace

By | Guide, Social dialogue

Gender based violence at the workplace continues to be one of the most harrowing forms of abuse of human rights where labor is concerned. Victims of this violence are not inclined to report it to the authorities often, because of the fear of retribution.

There is no international standard

Many countries have adopted laws against this specific form of violence. In practice these are often insufficient. There is, however, no international standard that could be the foundation for better regulations.

Towards an ILO convention

This is why the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation ILO decided in November 2015 to put a standard setting item on the agenda of the 2018 International Labour Conference (ILC), under the name of ‘Violence against women and men in the world of work’. CNV Internationaal, together with trade union partner organisations, wants to focus on this topic in the run-up to the 2018 ILC.

To learn more about ways towards ending violence at work, check our guide.


For the original source, please click here.


Unions can increase efficiency: Ten examples

By | Case-study, Social dialogue

Millions of workers in different countries and in different times have sought to organize into unions. Whether or not a government’s laws facilitate organizing, there has been widespread demand by individuals for labor unions– as an expression of their freedom of association. In spite of higher costs that may be related to unions, workers have fought for the right to organize to tilt the balance of power from employers to workers, to provide due process procedures, and to ensure that workers earn an adequate living to support a family. Unions do not form out of thin air; they arise when individuals decide to come together to collectively address market inefficiencies and social problems.

These private actions of individuals make it clear that unions have some place in benefiting the economy. While the costs of unions are often brought up, politicians and the voting public must also consider the benefits of unions. This Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) Economic Commentary investigates how unions can increase economic efficiency. The report outlines ten examples of unions positively improving the economy for the better:

1. Union workers earn higher wages and increase consumer demand;
2. Unions reduce socially inefficient levels of income inequality;
3. Union workers receive less government assistance;
4. Union workers contribute more in income taxes;
5. Unions increase productivity in construction, manufacturing, and education;
6. Unions reduce employee turnover rates;
7. Unions fight against child labor and for public education;
8. Unions fight against all forms of discrimination;
9. Unions collectively bargain toward efficient contracts; and
10. Unions fight against the “monopsony” power of owners, especially in sports.

For the original source, please click here.


Action-oriented research on gender equality and the working and living conditions of garment factory workers in Cambodia

By | Cambodia, Social dialogue

This study intends to increase understanding on gender equality and discrimination in Cambodia’s garment industry with a view to improve the economic and social well-being of its mostly female workforce and inform the further development of a responsible corporate model of garment production. It examines the working and living conditions of garment workers and their perceptions on discrimination and harassment in the workplace in garment factories in the country. The report provides a number of recommendations for the ILO, the Government, employers and workers and their organizations, and for civil society. The recommendations call for strengthening gender equality and gender mainstreaming programmes within these organizations; improving technical capacity to address and improve working conditions alongside business needs; promoting pay equity, advancement and training opportunities, anti-harassment programmes, and maternity protection within the factories; and developing programmes and partnerships to address garment industry workers’ needs for better food and nutrition, health services including reproductive health services, access to water, sanitation and energy, and access to childcare and education.