Operationalising Labour Rights: Access to Remedy at the Workplace

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Cardiff Business School

Abstract

Operationalising Labour Rights: Access to Remedy at the Workplace.
As economies grow and capital expands, conditions of employment for those who labour to create wealth remain poor in many industries and locations around the world. This is particularly the case in sectors such as the international garment sector, where the dispersion of labour intensive production along opaque value chains allows conditions at the workplace to be obscured from scrutiny. It is at this level that workers with low associational and structural power struggle to exert representational rights and defend their interests, while the lack of transparency within the global production network facilitates the perpetuation of abusive practices, the worst of which are all too often exposed by tragedy and loss of life, rather than audit. It is in this context that this research project seeks to illuminate local conditions against the backdrop of national and international forms of private and public regulation which fail in the absence of robust mechanisms of enforcement.

The research will involve the systematic collection of data on workplace grievances and their outcomes from garment workers employed in factories in the city of Bangalore, south India. Research partners are identified in Bangalore, including a well-established civil-society organisation, Cividep-India (Cividep), and a small but growing women's grass roots union, the Garment Labour Union (GLU). A small amount of data on workplace grievances has already been collated in a short pilot study in 2016. In the present research project, we will compile a further, far more comprehensive bank of data on the nature and outcomes of workplace grievances. The collection of data will take place over a period of twenty-four months and will involve establishing communication with factory workers (away from the workplace), organising worker forums, and establishing a range of engagement activities, facilitated by local field workers, through Cividep, as a precursor to data collection from respondents. Cividep will manage and monitor the fieldwork and data input in India and fieldworkers will be members of GLU. All fieldworkers will be former garment workers, experienced in the conditions that prevail in the sector. The gender composition of fieldwork teams will reflect the gendered nature of factory workforces and the membership of GLU, which is generally around 80% female.

The data on workplace grievances, their progress and outcomes will act as a foundation for a detailed understanding of the dynamics of workplace relations. Accordingly, the data will support us in theorising:
1. To what extent access to remedy is possible for the individual worker at the level of the workplace, and by what means.
2. To what extent it is possible to operationalise labour rights, including freedom of association, through dispute resolution at the level of the workplace.

In addition to contributing to theory and knowledge of labour's place in global value chains and affording insight into the efficacy of social auditing and statutory regulation in academic debate, the project's requirements of systematic data collection and analysis holds potential for capacity building in the field. It will further develop and hone research skills necessary to advocacy and the delivery of impact with diverse audiences of academia, practitioners and policy makers. It will also provide data affording greater transparency in workplace relations and evidence to support lobbying for meaningful mechanisms of access to remedy at the workplace. The objectives of this study are therefore to provide a deeper theoretical understanding of the challenges involved in operationalising labour rights at the workplace at the base of a feminised labour-intensive supply chain, while also developing skills and capacity in local civil society, supporting its advocacy role and thereby strengthening its transnational relationships and status.

Planned Impact

We plan to target four key beneficiary groups:

The Research Community
Findings from this research project will make a significant contribution to our knowledge and understanding of workplace relations, organisation and access to remedy in labour-intensive, industrial production in buyer-driven value chains in DAC countries. We will contribute presentations and papers to ongoing seminar series, conferences and our own end of project dissemination event. The unique nature of the data will result in the publication of high quality papers in high impact journals. Access to our data will provide a valuable resource for researchers across a variety of disciplines and stimulate further investigation and the development of new collaborations. Engagement with the academic community will also be supported by academic members of our steering group.

Workers and the General Public
Ultimately, the research programme aims to improve our understanding of the concrete realities of workplace relations prevailing at the base of the global supply chain and to support the efficacy with which access to remedy can be pursued by workers at the local level, in the interests of increased transparency, the operationalisation of employment rights and the improvement of working conditions. The local Indian research team will engage directly with workers in Bangalore via meetings held outside workplaces, social meetings held at workers' centres, worker forums and street theatre events. Experience of such activities in other settings suggest that the knowledge imparted about employment rights will, over time, raise levels of consciousness among workers and spill over into the wider community. In the UK, the research team has a track record of public engagement and will be active in events that inform the wider general public by speaking at public events in the UK about working practices in the garment sector labour-intensive value chains in DAC countries.

Impact on Unions and NGOs
The programme of research will provide a basis of formally recorded evidence which may be used as a foundation for advocacy by civil society in India and in the UK in support of workers in DAC countries. It will provide evidence of how access to remedy is facilitated or blocked at the workplace and thereby support the strategizing of new approaches and interventions aimed at promoting independent worker organisation and forms of representation at the workplace. We will build upon and benefit from existing civil society partnerships, such as that with Cividep in India, and with Labour Behind the Label, Homeworkers Worldwide and Anti-Slavery International in the UK, and will look to develop new partnerships with other key actors in this area through associated networks. Emerging findings will be actively promoted to these groups via our series of Blog posts and Research Notes.

Policy Makers
Issues surrounding fair work are of increasing prominence within the policy community (e.g. the formation of the Fair Work Board in Wales and the Fair Work Convention in Scotland). Procurement strategies are of significance in these endeavours and the research team will engage actively with policy makers to ensure that they able to access the research findings and can consider how they can influence policy development.

Our impact strategy will be finalised during the inception phase. A project inception workshop will take place in Bangalore hosted by Cividep to ensure that the project is engaging fully with stakeholders in India, providing the opportunity for them to contribute to the research design. Our steering group will also include representation from policy makers, practitioners (the TUC and global union federations), and NGOs (such as the Clean Clothes Campaign, Labour Behind the Label) on our steering group. All of these activities will be supported by a strong social media presence supported by dedicated communications staff based at WISERD.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Dr Jean Jenkins - Project Banner/Poster 
Description Through collaboration with our partners, we created a poster/banner to define the OLR project. Using the digital image banners have been produced in India by our project partners and in UK. The banners are being used to provide an identity for project events being held in both countries. 
Type Of Art Image 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The banner promotes the research and its intended outcomes to stakeholders in both India and UK and it provides the project with an easy to understand identity. 
 
Description Dr Jean Jenkins - Fieldworker Training
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Organised meetings of our partner's fieldworkers are currently taking place every Wednesday to train them in the use of technology to support systematic record keeping. The data being collected will be used to meet the objectives of the project as well as the objectives of our partner organisation. This is a somewhat new development, bringing campaigners together on a regular and more formal basis. Such meetings will feed in to capacity building at the grass roots and the techniques and methods being acquired by the fieldworkers will aid them with their work once the project has come to an end.
 
Description Dr Jean Jenkins - Nov/Dec 2019, Fieldworker Training in the use of Street Theatre and Music as a Means of Communication, Bangalore
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The use of music and theatre is intended as a quick and effective medium of communication for workers with limited educational background thus enabling greater engagement.
 
Description ESRC GCRF Urgent Appeals: Data and Shared Learning
Amount £198,913 (GBP)
Funding ID ES/T009918/1 
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2019 
End 04/2021
 
Description Learning from Urgent Appeal Data - ESRC Impact Acceleration Account NGO Data Application
Amount £16,678 (GBP)
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2018 
End 03/2019
 
Title Dr Jean Jenkins - Digital survey for capture of fieldworker case notes 
Description A detailed digital survey has been developed in collaboration with our Indian research partners. The survey has been designed to enable fieldworkers to record and maintain case note information through a combination of tick box, text box and voice to text options. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This survey enables a level of data capture that would be impossible secure through the use of a handwritten paper surveys and it provides an efficient, cost effective method for secure and systematic record keeping. 
 
Title Dr Jean Jenkins - Digital survey tool for the capture of fieldworker case notes 
Description In collaboration with our Indian research partners, over the past four months we have been developing technology and tools to facilitate the capture of fieldworkers' case notes. This is a developmental process which is undergoing change in real time. While this is perhaps not strictly an output of the project at this point, it should be noted that it has been discussed in meetings with other civil society actors in Bangalore. Key actors have expressed interest in the technology and it will be actively shared with them in the course of our research. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The method and associated use of technology will help ensure that case note data is collected efficiently and that its security and integrity are maintained. There have been learnings about developing bilingual virtual surveys and voice to text software. The use of both the technology and the systematic collection and organisation of the data that this survey method allows are enabling ourselves and our project partners and fieldworkers to develop the skills and knowledge to use this type of methodology. UK academics and third sector practitioners have also expressed an interested in understanding and using these methods in the future. 
 
Description Operationalising Labour Rights 
Organisation Cividep India
Country India 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We aim to undertake a very detailed study of the Garment Sector in the city of Bangalore. The project should increase transparency and provide credible data on the type of grievances workers continue to have and their chances of gaining access to remedy. We are working closely with our partners to develop appropriate tools for capture of data and dissemination of knowledge among local stakeholders. All publications and data will be jointly owned with our partners.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners are managing fieldworkers and coordinating efforts at the local level associated with data collection. We are working together as a cohesive team to deliver the overall objectives of the project.
Impact The project is 6 months old and it is too early to report on outputs or outcomes at this stage.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Dr Jean Jenkins - 22.06.19, Stakeholder Workshop, Bangalore 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Dr Jean Jenkins contributed morning session as part of a two day workshop explaining supply chains and neoliberal market principles to an audience of around 150 made up of domestic servants, agricultural workers, garment workers and bide sellers engaged with a civil society organisation, FEDINA.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Dr Jean Jenkins - Civil Society Meetings - Bangalore, January 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact During a visit to Bangalore in January 2019, ongoing engagement with wider civil society was continued with visits and discussions with the Karnataka Garment Workers' Union and FEDINA (NGO), Geeta Menon and domestic workers organising as part of Sri Stree Jagruti Samiti, and academics in the city.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Dr Jean Jenkins - Stakeholder Meeting - Bangalore, 26.10.18 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact A gathering of around 40 representatives of civil society in Bangalore met for the introduction and explanation of the OLR project. A panel of six eminent representatives of different civil society organisations and academics led discussions on the issues facing labour in the garment sector. The meeting was chaired by our research partners, Cividep-India.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Dr Jean Jenkins, 03.02.20 - Network meeting with FEMNET and other stakeholders - Bangalore 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The networking meeting emerged from a workshop for civil society stakeholders on Gender Based Violence run by Cividep in Banglore. Dr Jean Jenkins met FEMNET and collaboration has been established as a result.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Dr Jean Jenkins, 03.07.19, Reflections from the field: the methodological challenges of conducting research in the Indian garment sector 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Helen Blakely and Catriona Dickson gave a presentation about the methodological challenges encountered during research in India. The presentation was given at the WISERD Conference at Aberystwyth University on July 4th 2019 to a mixed audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Dr Jean Jenkins, 09.05.19, Presentation of Preliminary Findings 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A presentation to UN researcher on preliminary findings from the OLR project was given at Cardiff University by the project team and was followed by discussion and plans for future related activity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Dr Jean Jenkins, 28.05.19, Hay Festival Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Jean Jenkins gave a presentation, 'Fashion- an industry of gross exploitation', at the Hay Festival to a public audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.hayfestival.com/p-15356-jean-jenkins.aspx
 
Description Dr Jean Jenkins, April 2019, The Garment Supply Chain, Glasgow University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Jean Jenkins disseminated research on the garment sector and supply chain dynamics at Glasgow University, Adam Smith Business School.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Dr Jean Jenkins, March 2019 - Work place employment relations in the international garment sector, University of Manchester 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Jean Jenkins gave a presentation at Manchester University's Work and Equalities Institute. Networking following this event led to contact being established with UN researchers for the UNHCHR Access to Remedy project around UN guiding principles on business and human rights, and has subsequently led to further engagement with UN researchers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Dr Jean Jenkins, May 2019, Cividep and Stakeholder visit to Cardiff University 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Hosting project stakeholders at Cardiff University allowed for engagement with a range of practitioners, academics and policy makers over a period of 7 days. During this visit research was disseminated, networking engaged in and plans for future activity discussed and established.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019