BTS: Why was this year’s ILC particularly important, Benjamin?
BW: Because this year its focus was on global supply chains as a whole. Most ILCs focus on one specific sector, so this is different.
BTS: And did the discussion move in the direction of regulation or was it being blocked by employers?
BW: I think you know! The employers look for their interests and the workers fight for theirs. For us, that is greater regulation and the creation of universal standards.
BTS: Ok, so from a workers’ stand point, the most important thing is to work towards binding legislation?
BW: Yeah, an international conventional is exactly what the workers want and I think that’s the best direction to go in.
BTS: So if you could pick two or three things that would really change life as a worker in supply chains, what would they be?
BW: I think global regulation that comes with a real enforcement mechanism and the ability to collectively bargain. Those are the key.
BTS: So, would you therefore like to see a role for government?
BW: Yes, governments but also an international convention. We need good national standards created at the national level but also internationally. We need a convention that creates an international framework and then enforcement mechanisms that are able to actually apply things on the ground.
BTS: So we need something to hold people accountable, right?
BW: Yeah, that’s exactly right.
BTS: Ok, taking things back a bit, you previously mentioned ‘business interests’. Why do you think that businesses have an interest in not having regulation?
BW: I think right now the businesses, the multi-national enterprises, they’re used to driving wages down, they benefit from a race to the bottom. So they’re moving their operations from the global north to the global south, where they can exploit workers at even lower wages. They go to different countries and they start in this country and think ‘Oh, let’s go to this other one and we can now go even lower, and then to this other one and even lower still’. It’s a race to the bottom – and business benefits from that.
BTS: So they’re hopping around for the cheapest and most exploitable workers to make the most money?
BW: That’s correct.