In 2010, the international labor community was stunned by the Foxconn suicides and unsettled by the Honda strike in China. These events, while troubling, were not entirely surprising; the era of an endless stream of docile workers willing to labor for low wages had been coming to an end for some time. The suicides and strikes were but two of the most disturbing signs of underlying turmoil.
Despite these ongoing catastrophes in the labor market, the global economy has begun its slow recovery from the financial crisis. And while full recovery may be possible, I am convinced that it will not happen without making decent working conditions and access to rights a reality for workers across the globe. Business leaders must recognize that it will be impossible to return to the market conditions that prevailed before the crises, where workers had no voice, like those at Foxconn and Honda.
FLA’s multi-stakeholder approach will be even more essential as the global supply chain continues its metamorphosis. Companies will no longer be able to gain competitive advantage by finding yet another low-cost sourcing base. They must construct supply chains based on their ability to produce flexibly and quickly without compromising quality or labor standards, and can rely on the support of FLA and its NGO and university partners to chart a sustainable path.