Plans to create a national trade union network for workers in Inditex's Vietnamese supply chain have taken a step forward as part of a global framework agreement (GFA) between the Spanish retail giant and IndustriAll. 

At a meeting last month in Ho Chi Mihn City, factory level union leaders from the Southern provinces of Vietnam and representatives from Inditex discussed how to implement the existing GFA, and to ensure international labour standards are followed in the over 100 Inditex suppliers and subcontractors.

The talks centred around the creation of a national Inditex trade union network. The plan has been progressing since 2015 when IndustriAll, together with the VGCL, Vietnamese garment union VNUTGW, and the FES launched a series of workshops to discuss organising in the country's garment and shoe industry.

Workers at Inditex factories discussed issues such as long working hours, widespread use of precarious work, low wages, hot, dusty and noisy work environments, violation of workers' rights, a lack of real collective bargaining, and a reluctance from the employer's side to pay full-time shop stewards and to allow time for union activity to build sound labour relations.

Inditex is one of the world's largest fashion groups, with brands including Zara, Pull&Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Stradivarius, Oysho and Uterqüe.

Isidor Boix, from IndustriAll's Spanish affiliateIndustria-CC.OO and coordinator for implementation of the GFA with Inditex, said the network is interesting both for the workers in Vietnam and global trade unionism.

"This is about defending labour rights in the global supply chain and organising workers in factories producing for the big brands."

The Spanish retail group said that through the union building project, collective bargaining training for the shop stewards of its suppliers is focusing on how to improve the quality of collective bargaining agreements. Implementing the GFA inside supplier factories by instructing leaders on international standards such as ILO core conventions and OECD guidelines was another important issue, it said.

IndustriAll textile and garment industry director, Christina Clausen, encouraged participants to use the GFA to "build a network that develops solidarity and an exchange of information among factory level union leaders". 

Inditex signed the GFA in 2007 with ITGLWF (the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation), before it merged with other federations to become the IndustriAll global union. 

The pact addresses issues including labour standards and sub-contracting in the retail supply chain. It is designed to protect the rights of workers involved in the global operations of Inditex, setting best standards for trade union rights, health and safety, and environmental practices.

Crucially, it highlights the fact that freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining play a central role in a sustainable supply chain because they provide workers with the appropriate mechanisms for monitoring and enforcing their rights at work.

Inditex renews agreement to track the supply chain