A Race from the Bottom? Lessons from a workers' struggle at a Bangalore warehouse

Ashok KUMAR, 2019

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SAGE Journals

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Summary & key words

"This paper analyses the emergence of the ‘full package’ firm in India and its implications forworkers’ strategies. A ‘full package’ firm expands outward, from low-value assembly-only prod-ucts to high-value specialized garment production; consolidating under one roof. Historically,geographic and political barriers separated centres of value-creation (producers) and value-capture (brands and retailers) in the global garment sector. However, enhanced value-captureat the point of production has led to considerable consolidation organizationally, giving anincreasingly symbiotic character to relationships within ‘buyer driven’ supply chains. Thoughthis change aggregates the bargaining power of workers, it also introduces new obstacles toworkers’ organization. The concomitant rise of supplier-end value capture allows garment tradeunions to nonetheless demand greater shares. Thus, previously unviable modes and methodshave become available to workers engaged in struggles with their employers in the globalizedgarment sector. This paper examines a protracted workers’ struggle in light of this process. Indoing so, the paper demonstrates that codes of conduct and auditing alone cannot significantlyimpact labour standards because the needs of capital accumulation are greater than the threatposed by any auditing program or code. Ultimately, the paper demonstrates that labour rightswithin the garment GVC will not arrive through a rights-based approach – though strong codes of conduct and independent auditing can assist – but rather through a combination of an increasedpower of suppliers vis-a`-vis buyers, greater workers’ bargaining power with their direct employ-ers, and – critically – workers’ self organization."


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A Race from the Bottom? Lessons from a workers' struggle at a Bangalore warehouse