• Esprit has inked a global framework agreement (GFA) with IndustriAll Global Union, committing to respect, protect and champion the human rights of workers in its supply chain.
  • GFAs are negotiated at a global level between trade unions and companies and aim to protect the interests of workers employed in all operations of the multinational companies who sign them.
The agreement covers 525,000 workers at Esprit supplier factories in 27 countries

The agreement covers 525,000 workers at Esprit supplier factories in 27 countries

Hong-Kong-based fashion brand Esprit has pledged to respect, protect and champion the human rights of 525,000 workers at its supplier factories in 27 countries.

The commitment comes after the retailer became the latest to sign a global framework agreement (GFA) with the IndustriAll Global Union to enhance relations and dialogue between employers, employees and unions at its 1,100 textile, footwear and apparel supplier factories.

The agreement is based on a shared conviction that freedom of association and collective bargaining are crucial to empowering workers and developing well-functioning industrial relations. 

Designed to protect the interests of workers employed in all operations of the multinational companies who sign them, GFAs are negotiated at a 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.

Through the agreement, IndustriAll and Esprit will collaborate to set up mechanisms to make it easier for local trade unions to negotiate detailed collective agreements with all suppliers to Esprit at the national or local level. 

In addition, IndustriAll and Esprit will collaborate to ensure that fundamental International Labour Organization (ILO) standards are applied by their contractors, subcontractors and principle suppliers, including the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work as well as many other ILO Conventions and internationally recognised standards.

In conjunction with IndustriAll, Esprit commits to:

  • Developing mechanisms involving IndustriAll trade union affiliates and Esprit staff at country level to drive implementation of the agreement;
  • Developing a strategy to develop an enabling environment for freedom of association and collective bargaining;
  • Designing and implementing grievance mechanisms to ensure workers' access to remedy;
  • Implementing a training programme for workers and factory managers, as well as suppliers, to create an enabling environment for freedom of association and to build sustainable internal dialogue in factories;
  • Jointly develop a methodology to periodically assess the impact of purchasing practices at the worker level of the supply chain;
  • Acting as an enabler of freedom of association through the requirement of its suppliers to adopt a positive, open and collaborative approach towards the activities of trade unions.

"This is a big step forward for Esprit and for half a million people working in their global supply chain," says IndustriAll's general secretary, Valter Sanches. "Esprit recognises that the best way to empower garment and textile workers is to create an environment where they are free to join a trade union and bargain collectively, while being protected by the highest international labour standards. We look forward to working with our affiliates and using this global agreement to help improve workers' rights."

Esprit has already partnered with IndustriAll as a member of the ACT (Action, Collaboration, Transformation) Initiative, which aims to implement a living wage in garment manufacturing regions by enabling industry collective bargaining in major producing countries. 

It is also on the Steering Committee of the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, set up by IndustriAll and UNI Global Union to improve garment factory conditions after the Rana Plaza factory disaster in 2013.  

"The Esprit Supplier Code of Conduct has always included freedom of association. This agreement will give us new tools to uphold this commitment in a meaningful way," adds Lary Brown, vice president head of global social compliance and sustainability at Esprit. 

Other companies already implementing global framework agreements include H&M, Inditex, Tchibo and Asos.