With a new strategic focus for Asia, Solidar Suisse wants to push through workers’ rights and encourage responsible action by corporations.
Many consumer products imported into Switzerland are made under exploitative working conditions. Given that Solidar Suisse wants to improve the rights of the involved workers, as amply shown by our activities in China since 2010, we must proceed in an international, not country based, way. This is needed because the trade linkages cross frontiers. For example, consider Myanmar migrant workers on Indonesian plantations, Chinese investments in the Cambodian clothing industry, Russian lobbying in the Asian asbestos industry, Korean and Taiwanese manufacturers in Chinese consumer electronics. This shows the need for cross-border answers for protecting workers’ rights. Thus, starting in 2017, Solidar Suisse supports regionally networked projects and campaigns for improved working conditions.
GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAINS: LONG AND OPAQUE
Asian production is dominated by global supply chains. This can be illustrated by the following example: A Swiss dealer buys goods from a Taiwanese manufacturer, but they just got deliveries from Chinese or Cambodian subcontractors, who, themselves, buy parts from other suppliers. In other words, the supply chains are long and obscure. Furthermore, workers’ rights are often neglected. Local grassroots groups and unions try to react, but real progress can only be achieved with a networked approach. Therefore, Solidar supports regional networks which analyze the supply chain, share knowledge among the activist groups and deliver concrete proposals for every day work. So we focus on branches and issues that are relevant for both the Asian workers and the Swiss consumers. This includes the agro-industry, the textile branch and the asbestos industry. The most important issues are work safety, living wages and migrant workers.
Real projects to improve working conditions in China and Cambodia are supported through legal rights counseling, training courses and strengthening of our local partners. The connections with regional networks guarantee the exchange of experiences between the organisations in the various countries.
In addition, we have campaigns in Switzerland: we educate the public about the connection between working conditions in Asia and the Swiss market. As an example, last year featured campaigns concerning the working conditions in Chinese factories making toys or cooking pans. These campaigns show the joint responsibility of industry, commerce and public policy.