Asian garment unions have agreed that industry level bargaining must be developed in each country as the best means of securing higher wages and better working conditions across the continent.

Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, IndustriAll global union affiliates from seven Asian countries discussed how to strengthen their collaboration towards achieving living wages for garment workers in the region.

Following the discussion, affiliates agreed that industry level bargaining must be developed in line with the ACT agreement between IndustriAll and leading garment brands, while unions will continue to take a more strategic approach to factory-level collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiation.

The unions have been campaigning for higher minimum wages and more effective mechanisms but say low union density makes achieving higher minimum wages difficult, while non-compliance and lack of effective enforcement of minimum wages are constant problems.

Now, unions say the focus needs to be on a more strategic approach to factory-level CBA negotiation by taking note of examples set across the continent:

  • Pushing for multi-employer CBAs or sectoral agreements at provincial level (Vietnam)
  • Finding out which brands factories are producing for and putting on pressure; using the global framework agreements with Inditex and H&M (Bangladesh)
  • Benchmarking CBAs from different companies in the same industry (Philippines, Indonesia)
  • Mapping factories which do not yet have a CBA (Myanmar)
  • Coordinating bargaining by unions in the same company group, brand or industry base with eventual goal of achieving a single agreement for the group (Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam)
  • Merging unions within the same company (Philippines, Thailand)
  • Negotiating regional or zonal multi-employer CBAs (Indonesia).

Other trade union organisations such as ITUC, Solidarity Center and APHEDA also attended the meeting and pledged their continued support to union living wage campaigns.