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H&M Joins Forces with ILO and SIDA to Improve Industrial Relations in Ethiopia

Clothing behemoth H&M has teamed up with the International Labor Organization (ILO) and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) to launch an industrial relations project aiming to enhance a socially sustainable textile and garment industry in Ethiopia.

According to a statement published Friday, the three-year project is designed to assist the Ethiopian government, social partners and major industry stakeholders in their efforts to promote a social dialog and improve productivity, as well as upgrade wages and working conditions through sound labor relations practices and collective bargaining.

The Swedish retailer said it shares the ILO’s view that freedom of association and collective bargaining are necessary for workers and employers to negotiate wages and working conditions, noting that it’s paramount to its fair living wage strategy.

“Well-functioning relations and social dialogue on the labor market are key to improve working conditions and establish fair living wages,” Anna Gedda, head of sustainability at H&M, stated, adding, “We are engaged in projects which have the aim of strengthening employees’ rights and their ability to negotiate on their own behalf, on their terms and conditions, through trade unions and democratic elected employee representatives. Our goal is for all of our strategic supplier factories to have democratically elected and functional workplace representation in place by 2018 at the latest.”

Funded by SIDA and H&M and implemented by ILO in collaboration with Ethiopian tripartite constituents, the project will strengthen the regional labor administrations’ capacity for labor inspection and dispute settlement, as well as reinforce employers’, workers’ and their representatives’ organizational capacity.

In addition, the project will provide support for employers’ and workers’ representatives in around 20 enterprises willing to make an explicit commitment to the principles of the ILO and to the emergence of a socially responsible garment industry in Ethiopia via the development of productive and democratic labor relations.

This isn’t the first time H&M has joined forces with the ILO and SIDA. An ongoing collaboration in Cambodia aims to have one-third of the retailer’s supplier factories participating in the project by the end of this year.