Through its work with the multinationals in the clothing and footwear industries, the American ngo FLA is taking a critical look at the working conditions of tens of thousands of workers acting as sub-contractors for large brand holders.
Evolving from a task force created by former US President Bill Clinton, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) was set up in 1999 on the initiative of a coalition of 200 disparate operators: textile and footwear manufacturers, trade unions, human rights NGOs, consumer organisations and universities. FLA normally works with the big brand holders in these two manufacturing sectors (Adidas, Nike, Puma, H&M, etc.), among whom it tries to promote respect for the rights of workers.
Special emphasis is placed on the working conditions of sub-contractors in countries as varied as Thailand, Pakistan, Bolivia and China. The FLA code of conduct was drawn up by a coalition of manufacturers, which initially only drew scepticism from NGOs which found them insufficiently demanding. It essentially aims at translating the standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) into contracts of employment: prohibition of forced labour and child labour, guarantees of health and safety, freedom of association and collective bargaining, a living wage, non-discrimination, etc. In addition to paying a registration fee, any business wishing to join the FLA must provide evidence of its willingness to undergo a social accountability programme and independent audits. To carry out these audits, FLA calls on 20 or so certification organisations established on all five continents. Every business adopting the FLA system must, above all, apply it to its suppliers and sub-contractors.