Panel discussion on ‘The benefits: learning from practical experience of producers – case study of collective bargaining at Kohinoor Textile Mills Ltd.’

The ILO Labour Standards in Global Supply Chains (LSGSC) project, which is funded by BMZ on behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany, facilitated a panel discussion at the regional Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue for Change Conference on Scaling up Dialogue Approaches for Social Compliance organized by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on 15 November 2018 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The discussion provided the opportunity to share a regional-level exchange of first-hand worker and employer experiences of enterprise-level collective bargaining, complemented and contextualised by ILO expert perspectives.

Feature | 05 December 2018
At the regional Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue for Change Conference on Scaling up Dialogue Approaches for Social Compliance organized by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on 15 November 2018 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the ILO’s Labour Standards in Global Supply Chains (LSGSC) project organized a panel discussion on ‘The Benefits: Learning from Practical Experience of Producers’.

The panel discussion provided the LSGSC project with the opportunity to facilitate regional-level experience-sharing by worker and employer representatives of project-supported enterprise-level collective bargaining processes, practices, challenges, lessons learned and benefits, and to contextualize these beneficiary experiences from Pakistan in the broader context of LGSC project’s work and achievements at global, regional, and country-level. To this end, the panel discussion featured a case study of collective bargaining processes, outcomes and lessons learned at Kohinoor Textile Mills Ltd., a vertically-integrated textile enterprise in Pakistan that employs more than 3,000 workers and supplies to fashion brands, retailers and wholesalers around the world.

During the panel discussion, Mr Syed Sajjad Gardezi, General Secretary of Kohinoor Textiles Mazdoor Union (KTMU), introduced the negotiation process recently undertaken by workers and management at Kohinoor Textile Mills Ltd. to achieve a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). In negotiating the agreement, trade union representatives drew upon new negotiation skills that they had gained through participation in capacity building programmes delivered by the LSGSC project in Pakistan.

“ILO’s training has built the capacities of both workers and employers on evidence-based negotiations, which helped us to reach a collective agreement relatively quickly. These learnings were evident in both the process and outcome of the collective agreement at our factory, where both parties adopted effective negotiation approaches and positions that resulted in achieving a mutually beneficial consensus”, said Mr Gardezi. Mr Gardezi, who participated in the event remotely via video, highlighted several benefits for workers at the factory of the collective bargaining agreement, including bonuses for workers, a workers’ participation fund, and improved living conditions at employer-supplied accommodation facilities. KTMU is an affiliated member of the Pakistan Workers’ Federation (PWF).

Panellist Mr Asif Comboh, Head of Industrial Relations and Administration at Kohinoor Textile Mills Ltd., shared the approach taken by management to the collective agreement process, including providing access by workers to relevant financial data, and assessing the financial implications for the business of the various positions under negotiation. “Management at Kohinoor Textile Mills Ltd., provides information to workers in a fair manner. Through a shared financial understanding, we were able to avoid deadlocks and reach consensus”, said Mr Comboh, who highlighted several business benefits of collective bargaining, including reduced absenteeism, and higher employee motivation, and improved productivity. “Overall, production efficiency increased by six per cent at Kohinoor Textile Mills Ltd. in the months following signing of the collective agreement”, highlighted Mr Comboh. Kohinoor Textile Mills Ltd., through its parent company, is an affiliated member of the Employers’ Federation of Pakistan (EFP).

Mr John Ritchotte, Specialist on Social Dialogue and Labour Administration at ILO’s Inclusive Labour Markets, Labour Relations and Working Conditions Branch (INWORK) provided an ILO perspective to the discussion. “The effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining is a fundamental principle and right at work, and a fundamental Convention of the ILO. The goals of this Convention are to protect workers from anti-union discrimination, ensure that unions and employers do not interfere in each other’s establishment, management or functions, and specifically prohibits management from dominating unions. The Convention also calls on governments to put in place measures to promote the development and use of collective bargaining. As an institution, collective bargaining has a long history of governing workplaces and labour markets”, said Mr Ritchotte. For this reason, “countries in all regions and at different levels of development continue to request support and advice from the ILO to establish and revitalize mechanisms for voluntary negotiations and enhance the effectiveness of policies that promote collective bargaining”, added Mr Ritchotte.

ILO seized the opportunity to launch a new LSGSC project publication on “Good Practices in Collective Bargaining: A Compilation of Case Studies from Pakistan”, in which the collective bargaining process at the Kohinoor Textile Mills Ltd. is included as a case study. The new study identifies success factors for the negotiation of effective collective bargaining agreements, including the presence of independent and well-informed workers’ organizations, and senior-level representation of the negotiating parties during negotiations. The report identifies positive impacts of collective bargaining on working conditions and enterprise performance. The report analyses the content of collective bargaining agreements, the processes undertaken to negotiate them, and the outcomes for both workers and management, and identifies the enabling factors that make collective bargaining effective.

“This new report highlights several factors that can be important for effective collective bargaining” said the Director of the ILO Country Office for Pakistan Ms Ingrid Christensen. “The report shares several good practices in collective bargaining from Pakistan, such as the inclusion in negotiations of a wide range of topics. The report also highlights that research and meticulous preparation by both parties is key to a successful negotiation”, said Ms Christensen.

The panel discussion built upon the success of two regional tripartite workshops organized jointly by the LSGSC project and GIZ in November 2015 and March 2017. More information about the March 2017 regional workshop is available here.

Following the workshop, Ms Irene Genzmer, Head of Regional Cooperation with GIZ’s Social and Labour Standards in the Textile and Garment Sector in Asia (SLSG) project said: “I would like to thank the ILO and its LSGSC project for arranging a lively panel discussion and presentations at our Conference on Scaling up Dialogue Approaches for Social Compliance. The panel discussion provided a valuable opportunity within the conference programme for participants to share experiences and ideas about dialogue approaches and social dialogue and to learn from each other, with the potential to replicate and scale-up in the future”.

The development objective of the LSGSC project is to improve the lives of workers and increase decent work opportunities in Global Supply Chains (GSCs) in the garment sector supply chain, starting with the project’s direct beneficiary countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, and Pakistan. More information about the LSGSC project is available here.