Besides labour exploitation, the lack of proper occupational safety and health conditions is a serious problem in irregular and informal sewing shops

Besides labour exploitation, the lack of proper occupational safety and health conditions is a serious problem in irregular and informal sewing shops

A new partnership has been launched in Brazil's São Paulo state to promote decent work in the region's textile and apparel sector, with a particular focus on migrant workers.

Provided by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), in collaboration with Brazilian Association of Textile Retail (ABVTEX), Brazilian Association of Textile Industry (Abit), Instituto C&A (the Brazilian office of C&A Foundation), Instituto Lojas Renner and Zara Brazil, the initiative will take a three-pronged approach. It aims to raise rights awareness and empower vulnerable sewing shop workers, raise risk awareness and provide management training, and build the capacities of institutions at federal, state and local levels to develop and implement policies to improve working conditions, with a particular focus on migrant workers.

Formalised in 1999, the concept of Decent Work summarises ILO's historic mission of promoting opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity.

Over recent years in Brazil, more and more emphasis has been placed on dealing with these issues given the arrival of a growing number of migrants from other Latin American and African countries, the groups explain. Besides labour exploitation, the lack of proper occupational safety and health conditions is a serious problem in irregular and informal sewing shops.

According to the ILO, these interventions should help transform the management structure of the textile and apparel supply chain, stressing the strategic importance for companies to prevent risks that arise from the exploitation of labour of these vulnerable populations.

"This new ILO partnership with the fashion industry and retail sector in Brazil will help the country to promote socially and economically sustainable supply chains, offering decent work to workers of the sector," says Peter Poschen, director of the ILO office in Brazil.

Meanwhile, besides labour exploitation, the lack of proper occupational safety and health conditions is also a serious problem in irregular and informal sewing shops, says the ILO. Brazil has the fifth largest textile industry in the world, employing millions of people and generating profit to thousands of companies. Like in all industries, such risks exist and require specific actions to be mitigated, both as part of a business strategy and to promote human and labour rights.

Fernando Pimentel, executive director of Abit, adds: "Abit has partnered with several national and international organisations to tackle the problem of exploitation in our production and distribution chain. It is a complex landscape, with regional and international reach, that requires co-ordinated actions of public and private agents for the problem to be eliminated at a global level.

"That is why we have said that, if the market is global, production standards should also be increasingly globalised; they should be followed by all countries and producers. Unfair competition and the lack of common rules lead to a form of production that is inconceivable for human dignity."