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Abstract

The international framework agreement concluded between the Spanish fashion retailer Inditex SA and the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation (ITGLWF) was lauded as the first IFA to apply to an outsourced apparel supply chain. Central to the implementation approach of both parties is an understanding that for progress to be made in the advancement of core labour standards in producing countries, compliance efforts need to be rooted in the promotion of freedom of association, dialogue and collective bargaining. This approach has informed the interventions of the ITGLWF and the multinational Inditex SA to resolve trade union recognition disputes in a number of developing countries. This article presents and critically examines an early test case of this approach at a knitwear factory in Cambodia. Drawing on empirical research, we find that the intervention resulted in the resolution of a recognition dispute, which led to significant membership gains for a local union and the removal of fixed duration contracts. However, the article raises questions about the effectiveness and sustainability of such an approach for advancing freedom of association and collective bargaining throughout a multinational apparel supply chain, particularly in the current global economic climate.

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