Beyond Trafficking and Slavery

Voices from the supply chain: an interview with Ashim Roy

BTS interviews Ashim Roy of the Indian New Trade Union Initiative.

Ashim Roy
17 August 2016

Ashim Roy

BTS: Good morning Ashim. Could you please tell readers and listeners who you are?

AR: I am Ashim Roy and I’m the Vice-President of the New Trade Union Initiative, which is an independent and progressive trade union from India.

BTS: OK, and why does your union think that this year’s International Labour Conference is so important?

AR: Well, it has been a very long and arduous campaign to get global supply chain governance on the agenda. If you look at what has happened in the last decade to global trade, we see that almost 60/% of trade is inside of supply chains. Yet that kind of trade that has never been regulated. This is the first time that regulation like this is on the agenda at the ILO, and that is massive.

BTS: And is your goal to see serious regulation regarding decent work in global supply chains?

AR: Absolutely. Right now there are major governance gaps, and these are what we need to close.

BTS: But employers say that voluntary codes of conduct are enough to ensure decent work in supply chains. Do you agree?

AR: We have waged a long battle with the clean clothes campaign and the Asia floor wage campaign, both of which are social alliances of unions and NGOs and government, and I can tell you from our experience of over ten years that not a single voluntary code of conduct has actually worked.

BTS: That’s quite damming. So we are talking about a decade of serious and well-funded voluntary initiatives that have all failed, from a worker’s perspective?

AR: Yes.


AR: And that’s why there’s growing interest in moving going towards a more collective bargain framework, with multi-stakeholder initiatives, and using binding agreements, as we saw in Bangladesh after Rana Plaza.

BTS: Right. And with that in mind, can we ask you what three things you think would need to change for decent work to be a reality for workers in global supply chains?

AR: First we need to confront the fact that, within global supply chains, the majority of workers at the lower end are getting very low wages. And we know that if you want to have a dignified human being working in dignified conditions, they need to be given a living wage. A second point is that we have a fair amount of gap in terms of the regulatory framework, and so we need a strong regulatory framework with standard-setting by the ILO. And third, we really have to allow unions to be formed and to participate in the implementation and enforcement of any regulations. This would allow high standards to travel all the way down the value chain.

BTS: And from the perspective of the ILO as a tripartite mechanism, what should its role be in the entire process?

AR: I think the primary role of the ILO is to set global standards. I’m convinced that there is a global governance gap and think we require a convention or other regulatory framework that actually protects the interests of workers in this sick supply chain.

BTS: Thank you very much Ashim.

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