IF Metall president Anders Ferbe, H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson and IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina sign the global framework agreement

IF Metall president Anders Ferbe, H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson and IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina sign the global framework agreement

Swedish fashion retailer H&M has re-signed its global framework agreement (GFA) with the IndustriAll Global Union and Swedish trade union IF Metall, converting an earlier deal into a permanent collaboration.

In November H&M pledged to improve labour rights for 1.6m garment workers at its supplier factories in a move that it said should also contribute to the creation of more stable sourcing markets.

H&M worker rights pledge supports stable sourcing

Now, based on the outcome of the agreement, the retailer re-signed along with IndustriAll and IF Metall on Thursday (30 September). As a result H&M will continue its work alongside the unions to enhance relations and dialogue between employers, employees and unions at the 1,900 or so factories that make H&M products.

Designed to protect the interests of workers employed in all operations of the multinational companies who sign them, GFAs are negotiated at global level between trade unions and companies. They establish the best possible standards on trade union rights, on health and safety, and on the labour relations principles adhered to by the company in its global operations, regardless of the standards existing in a particular country.

In this instance, the agreement has already led to several positive results including national monitoring committees, consisting of representatives from IndustriAll's affiliated trade unions and H&M, in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar and Turkey. The committees support employers' and workers' organisations to negotiate and to solve conflicts peacefully at the factory level.

According to H&M, the GFA also helped resolve a dispute at a Myanmar textile factory which led to the introduction of a union that allows the factory to take steps towards sound industrial relations and a reduced risk of future misunderstandings and conflicts.

Christina Hajagos-Clausen, IndustriAll's textile and garment industry director, says support to factory-level unions within H&M's supply chain has been a key objective of the GFA. However, she says these newly formed labour/management relations are "fragile" and require additional capacity building.

IndustriAll, which represents 50m workers in 140 countries, has signed GFAs with 46 major corporations. Earlier this year, Zara owner Inditex renewed a long-standing agreement that sees trade union experts employed across the fashion retailer's global supply chain to help with the implementation of labour rights.

Inditex renews global trade union agreement

And earlier this week, German brand Tchibo became the first retail company in Germany to sign a GFA with IndustriAll, in a bid to improve worker rights in countries where it sources its merchandise.

Tchibo strengthens worker rights across the supply chain