Geneva, Switzerland – On the 2nd of June, the International Catholic Centre of Geneva (CCIG) organized a consultation on “Decent Work Along Global Value Chains: A Call for Responsibility and an Opportunity for Solidarity”, in collaboration with the Kolping International/German Commission for Justice and Peace, Caritas Internationalis, the World Movement of Christian Workers (WMCW), the International Coordination of Young Christians Workers (ICYCW), International Young Christian Workers (IYCW), and finally, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO).
The conference came as a follow up to another CCIG event held exactly one year prior, “From Informal to Formal Economy: Ensuring More Just and Decent Conditions of Work”, which insisted on the necessity to integrate informal forms of employment into the formal global economy, in order to ensure better legal protections and labor conditions for vulnerable workers.
After an introduction by CCIG Secretary General, Maria D’Onofrio, we heard presentations by several prominent figures of international labor organizations: Ms Manuela Tomei, Director of the Conditions of Work and Equality Department of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Ms Anna Biondi, Deputy Director of the Bureau for Workers’ Activities at the ILO, Ms Linda Kromjong, Secretary General of the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and finally Ms. Nicola Pepper of the University of Sydney, who offered closing remarks.
Ms. Tomei of the ILO, opened with a definition of global value chains, which she describes as an “organization of production and delivery of a range of goods and services by lead firms through complex chains of suppliers and subcontractors that span many different countries”. The following panelists expanded on the tendencies of corporations to capitalize on the globalization of production, by way of tax exemptions and exploitation of foreign workers, as well as the unbalanced power dynamic that favors these corporations and often prevents workers from demanding better labour conditions. The panelists urged local governments to exercise control over the enterprises within their jurisdiction, and for employers and the international community to join in the effort as well, to better regulate global value chains.
Following the panelists’ presentations, a series of afternoon workshops were held in order to delve deeper into the specific challenges faced by migrants, women and the youth. Some of the issues raised included the disproportionate problem of sexual and economic exploitation of women, the lack of rights for migrant workers to organize, and the methods of recruitment by employers which often results in workers being indebted to them. The discussion emphasized the particular need to provide education to the most vulnerable people on their rights, which has proven to be the most effective at the local level be it through labour unions, religious groups, or civil society.
In her concluding remarks, Ms. Amélie Peyrad, the International President of The ICYCW, expressed the urgency of all actors, national governments, NGOs and enterprises to adopt and respect the existing ILO conventions. She asserted that human dignity should always be at the forefront of this discussion and that additional attention must be paid to the most vulnerable groups of people: women, migrants and the youth.
For more detailed information, please consult the executive summary of the conference.