Global Codes and Local Conduct Corporate Codes of Conduct and the Roles, Collaboration and Relationship between Local Labor Actors in Indonesia
Abstract: Existing research points both to the importance of local actors’ participation in the development and implementation of private regulation of workers’ rights (such as codes of conduct) and to the need for cooperation between unions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). However, there is limited previous empirical research into the role of local actors in private regulation and previous research also shows that the collaboration and relationship between unions and NGOs can be rather complicated. To address these gaps, this study examines local unions’ and NGOs’ views on codes of conduct (CoC) as a tool to enforce workers’ rights within the Indonesian garment industry. The study also explores the roles of, as well as the collaboration and relationship between, Indonesian unions and NGOs.Through a qualitative Minor Field Study in Indonesia, fifteen interviews with local unionists and NGO activists were conducted. Our findings show that unions and NGOs view CoC positively as an alternative instrument to improve working conditions. However, both groups also identify several shortcomings of CoC, such as CoC lacking local adaptation and legal enforcement. As a consequence, local actors and international companies have started to collaborate in a new way (called the Play Fair Alliance) to address workers’ rights issues through legally binding protocols. Furthermore, on the basis of our findings, we have added to existing literature into union-NGO collaboration by developing a typology of the main roles of unions and NGOs in Indonesia. This systematization reveals three areas where both unions and NGOs claim to have a role, also being the areas in which unions as well as NGOs state that they meet to collaborate. Finally, our findings point at the union-NGO relationship being characterized by great ambiguity, resulting from an unclear role division as a consequence of the specific historical circumstances of the Indonesian labor movement.
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