Does the Adoption of Codes of Conduct Marginalize Labor Unions? The Case of Turkey's Garment Industry
Sabanci University - School of Management, Corporate Governance Forum
February 4, 2008
In this article, we examine issues with respect to the adoption of a voluntary code of conduct, addressing the social standards in the garment sector in Turkey. We try to shed some light on the following critical question: does the adoption of voluntary CoC cause the marginalization of the role that unions play in a developing country context? We define marginalization both in terms of decreasing perceived utility of unions as well as scope and depth of issues that they can influence.
We analyze the case of Turkey's garment sector based on observations of the Social Standards Round Table, a multi-stakeholder European initiative aimed at providing institutional support to implementation of CoC in eleven countries, semi-structured interviews with participating members, supplier firms' managers and workers, and archival data. The article concludes by arguing that; (i) CoC may become a tool allowing employers to decrease the perceived and/or real utility of trade unions in the eyes of their workers, creating further challenges for organizing activities, (ii) CoC may shift the balance of power to the buyer-supplier networks in setting and enforcing social standards, further marginalizing the scope and depth of issues that workers and their representatives can influence. On the other hand, we further argue that, CoC, when acknowledged, supported and monitored by a broad set of stakeholders, have the potential to set the agenda on social dialog-or lack of it- and the underlying structural issues. This potential can be realized by active cooperation of the state, unions and activist organizations in incorporating individual workplaces, formal and informal, into the larger industrial relations framework.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 47
Keywords: Codes of Conduct, Freedom of Association, Transnational Companies, Social Standards
JEL Classification: M14, J51, J53, J83, F23working papers series
Date posted: May 24, 2008
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