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The Promises of New Instruments for the Promotion of Decent Work

  • Christoph Scherrer
  • Stefan Beck
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter provides an overview and assessment of major initiatives to improve working conditions throughout global production networks. It starts with an economic justification of international workers’ rights, arguing that developing countries are limited in their ability to raise labour standards on their own. This competitive situation, however, is the very reason why labour rights have to be negotiated internationally. The chapter assesses the following instruments: labour chapters in bilateral trade agreements, social conditionality of public procurement, voluntarily adopted codes of conduct, Global Framework Agreements between global union federations and transnational corporations, combinations of labour-driven and consumer-driven mechanisms for the protection of workers such as the Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which asks companies to practise due diligence in handling human rights risks in their own responsibility, going beyond the observance of national laws. It concludes that so far none of the many initiatives seem to be particularly effective. The most promising remains trade conditionality. However, if only a rather weak social chapter in a trade agreement is politically achievable, it risks justifying trade liberalization measures and the strengthening of investors’ rights, which will undercut the bargaining strength of labour. It is therefore not sufficient to discuss specific instruments for the promotion of labour rights along value chains; one also needs to address the general governance of international trade.

Keywords

Decent work International trade Labour standard Value chain Transnational corporation Governance 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christoph Scherrer
    • 1
  • Stefan Beck
    • 2
  1. 1.International Center for Development and Decent WorkUniversität KasselKasselGermany
  2. 2.FB05 GesellschaftswissenschaftenUniversität KasselKasselGermany

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