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.

The Benefits of Collective Bargaining for Women: A Case Study of Morocco

By | Case-study, Morocco


This study uses the case study of the Confédération Démocratique du Travail (CDT) negotiated with Domaines Brahim Zniber Diana Holding Group in 2015 in Morocco to analyse the effect of collective bargaining on women and how the inclusion of women can alter the outcomes of the agreement. It concludes that collective bargaining agreements greatly impacts gender equality and benefits all workers by raising wages as well as facilitating broader social dialogue between workers, unions, employers and governments. An important takeaway is that the employer was supportive of the agreement throughout the process, and that even impactful agreements can be done amicably.

For the original source, please click here

Good practices and challenges on the Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183) and the Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention, 1981 (No. 156): A comparative study

By | Australia, Benin, Chile, Macedonia, Moldova, Morocco, Niger, Paraguay, Social dialogue, Sri Lanka, Ukraine

The success of national and workplace strategies to promote women’s equal opportunities and treatment in labour markets and gender equality at work are dependent on adequate and accessible maternity protection and family-friendly services and measures. Supporting workers with family responsibilities also helps fathers to be more involved in care of their children and more equally share in responsibilities in the home.

Ten case studies concern Convention No. 183 in Benin, Moldova and Morocco and the Maternity Protection Convention (Revised), 1952 (No. 103) in Sri Lanka; as well as Convention No. 156 in Australia, Chile, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Niger, Paraguay and Ukraine.

For the original source, please click here.


Palming off responsibility – Labour rights violations in the Indonesian palm oil sector

By | Case-study, Indonesia, Social dialogue

The case studies in this research describe how two RSPO-certified palm oil companies structurally violate the labour rights of their workers. In both cases, workers are forced to work unpaid overtime in order to reach unrealistic production targets. Furthermore, these targets have motivated workers to bring their wives and children to work, thus giving rise to child labour. Other rights violations found in the field research included union busting, workers never receiving employment contracts, inadequate PPE provision and inadequate medical services. Thus, many workers’ rights violations were found that breach the RSPO standard, international law, Indonesian law, or all of the above.

This report provides a brief discussion of the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in Indonesia, in an attempt to showcase some of the pitfalls that hamper this process. Two of these are uncertainty over whether Indonesia has a monist or a dualist legal system, and organisational and political issues with developing the country’s National Action Plan. The lack of implementation and enforcement of the UNGPs in Indonesia are illustrated by the company case studies, and the company’s violations of rights enshrined in UN conventions, such as children’s right not to work.

Furthermore, the international standing and reputation of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is discussed. Dutch companies that use palm oil in their products have joined the RSPO in an attempt to make their palm oil supply chains more sustainable and to ensure that the palm oil they buy has taken place free of labour rights violations and environmental degradation, among other criteria. NGO reports show that, at least on an incidental basis, the RSPO certifies palm oil produced by companies that commit exactly the types of human rights and environmental violations that motivated the creation of the RSPO.

Although further research would be needed to underwrite such a sweeping statement about the RSPO, the case studies presented in this report show that RSPO certification is not necessarily an assurance of sustainable palm production, and thus give cause for scepticism towards the initiative. Companies should therefore not depend solely on certification, but should undertake their own supply chain due diligence to ensure their business partners do not commit labour and human rights violations, so that they can safeguard their own compliance with the UNGPs.

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.