ILR introduces global severance package

Millions of garment workers in factories around the world lost their wages and jobs at the start of the pandemic, highlighting the precarious work environment they have faced for decades.

“COVID was a stress test for the systems – private run by fashion brands and public built by national governments – to protect workers in the global garment industry,” says Jason Judd, Executive Director of the ILR School’s New Conversation Project. “Most were found insufficient. IndustriALL, the global union representing garment workers, asked us to assess past efforts and possible models for a global redundancy fund to compensate garment workers who have lost their jobs and incomes .

The resulting document, “Safety for Garment Workers: Alternative Models” was written by Judd, Professor Sarosh Kuruvilla and J. Lowell Jackson ’17. In it, the researchers describe existing approaches that have attempted to provide garment workers with some degree of income security and use them to piece together the necessary elements of a “global layoff program”.

According to Judd and Kuruvilla, academic director of the New Conversations Project and ILR’s Andrew J. Nathanson Family Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations, the “gold standard” for helping laid-off workers is a “national model full unemployment benefit with severance pay. requirements that cover all workers, regardless of sector. However, the reality is that less than half of the world’s population has access to any form of social protection, “leaving the vast majority of the world’s population unprotected in times of need, from national or global economic shocks or from the devastation of the world.” a global pandemic or extreme weather events.

In the report, the authors recommend:

  • A global severance fund is expected to be created with money provided following an agreement between global unions and global brands.
  • A global governing body should be created for unions, suppliers and fashion brands with a small number of seats (voting or observer) reserved for national governments, a representative from an international financial institution and NGOs active in the field of the apparel supply chain.
  • Bodies at the national level to monitor the process of establishing and improving national social security systems, educate workers about the fund and its purpose, and possibly play a role in the disbursement of funds at the national level.
  • An “inspection function” that allows union participants from dozens of countries, supported by the global fund, to verify compliance with the terms of the agreement.

In addition, they state four “must haves” for systems of this type to work:

  • Global companies must do more to ensure workers have a voice and the ability to bargain collectively.
  • Brand responsibility for responsible purchasing practices, including fair pricing and payment for in-progress or completed orders.
  • Long-term commitments from buyers to suppliers will ensure the stability of the program.
  • The ability of major global brands to contribute to the fund.

A full version of this story can be found at ILR website.
Julie Greco is a communication specialist at the ILR School.

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