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MFA+3 Report: Labour rights in a changing garment industry

January 9, 2009

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On September 30 - October 2, 2008, approximately 60 representatives of women's, human rights, trade union, and other non-governmental organizations from 10 countries in the Americas gathered in San Pedro Sula, Honduras to share information and experiences on the impacts of the end of the import quota system three years earlier in January 2005.

The regional seminar, entitled "MFA+3: Labour Rights in a Changing Garment Industry," was co-sponsored by MSN and the Honduran Independent Monitoring Team (EMIH). It brought together labour and women's rights activists from Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Argentina.

May Wong of Globalization Monitor, based in Hong Kong, also participated in the seminar as a resource person on labour rights in China and the Asia Floor Wage Campaign.

The Honduras seminar was a follow up to a similar event that took place in Nicaragua in February 2005, also co-sponsored by MSN, in which delegates from the same sectors discussed the possible impacts of the demise of the import quota system under the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA) at the end of 2005.


Plenary session, MFA+3 Seminar, Honduras

The objectives of the seminar were to:
  • Share information and analysis on the impacts of the end of the import quota system and other trade policies and agreements on national garment industries, communities and workers since January 2005 - with a focus on the Americas;
  • Analyze the potential changes in the industry in the coming five years and how those changes could impact on wages, working conditions, workers' rights and other conditions of employment, as well as on national labour laws and regulations and their enforcement; and
  • Explore possible new strategies and alliances to challenge these negative impacts of trade liberalization and to organize and advocate for policies and regulations that improve labour protection and worker rights and reverse the race to the bottom on labour standards.

The agenda of the seminar included presentations and discussion on the future of the garment industry in the region and internationally; the impact of factory closures; regional and international initiatives to improve labour practices; the reality of workers' lives in China and efforts to defend their rights; and strategic questions including the current and potential roles of national governments and international brands.

Both the formal and informal discussions at the seminar were rich and varied. Some general reflections coming out of the conference are posted in the last section of the report:  Looking towards the future

Key materials:

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