The Dimension of Labour Standards in the Age of Globalisation and Trade Unions’ Responses on the Ground: Insights from the Bangladesh Garment Industry

  • Samar Chakraborty

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


My study examines two interrelated phenomena in the Bangladesh Garment Industry: the conditions of labour standards in the aftermath of Rana Plaza under lived conditions of globalisation and the material and proximate roles played by unions in promoting labour standards on the ground. The study examines how specific catalytic factors originating from globalisation have caused changes and developments in labour standards in the context of global pressures and a weak state legal system. The study reveals that multinational corporations,
although signed up to multi-stakeholder initiatives at the global level, are far from keeping their promises to support supplier factories in promoting labour standards. The research demonstrates key findings based on workers' collective voices from the ground up, identifying how the opportunities created in the immediate aftermath of the Rana Plaza disaster through the formation
of private government initiatives have effectively used to reduce the power of unions in the Bangladesh Garment Industry. Taking evidence from in-depth semi-structured interviews with various stakeholders, the research examines a series of critical issues concerning global initiatives in the establishment of labour standards and the division of labour.

My study finds that the dominant local and global actors constrain labour unions' organising and negotiating power. Unions have limited opportunities to challenge or reverse deteriorating working conditions as they have inadequate resources, impeding their capacity to promote standards. The research contributes to a growing body of analysis focusing on the structural shift
of MNCs' policy towards labour standards and the behaviour of local and global actors that shape labour standards on the ground. The research explores the sets of accountability and best practices that could be developed to bridge the gaps between local and global actors in promoting labour standards in the global supply chain.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorGraeme Hayes (Supervisor) & Vidu Badigannavar (Supervisor)


  • globalisation
  • multinational corporations
  • multi-stakeholder initiatives
  • labour standards
  • compliance
  • trade unions
  • labour laws and regulations
  • case study
  • the Bangladesh garment industry

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