On 22 September, industriAll Europe led the European Commission’s social workshop as part of the co-creation process for the transition pathway for the textiles ecosystem which includes the textile, clothing, leather and footwear sectors (TCLF).

This was the first eco-system social workshop held as part of the new EU industrial strategy’s eco-system approach. IndustriAll Europe has been strongly advocating for a greater recognition of the social dimension in EU industrial strategies towards strategic eco-systems over recent years. The workshop highlighted the social challenges and opportunities facing the textile ecosystem during the green and digital transition, and explored how to ensure a smooth and successful transition.

For trade unions, a Just Transition means leaving no worker or region behind in relation to the green and digital transitions, and is a vital prerequisite for the European Green Deal in particular. However, specific characteristics of different sectors mean that attention is needed to ensure that this is made a reality, and not only rhetoric. For the textile sectors, which employ mostly female workers, on low pay, both inside and outside the EU, it is essential that these workers and their communities reliant on the sector are not left behind.

The workshop featured all key stakeholders, including brands (H&M and Zalando), employers (Euratex and CEC), trade union representatives, government representatives and NGOs, including the Fair Trade Advocacy Office, Clean Clothes Campaign and Solidaridad. Stakeholders agreed that everyone has a role to play in ensuring that the textiles ecosystem can transition to a more sustainable model. This includes the entire supply chain from brands to small farmer holdings.

One working group was dedicated to discussing how to ensure decent wages and working conditions, with stakeholders recognising that the textiles ecosystem employs a high level of female workers who are often on the lowest pay within all the manufacturing sectors. A proper implementation of the forthcoming EU Directive on Adequate Minimum Wages was discussed, along with the need to end unfair purchasing practices in which consumers also have a role to play to increase demand for sustainable products.

Judith Kirton-Darling, Deputy General Secretary of industriAll Europe, said:

“We need to end the race to the bottom of low-cost production, which often just results in low pay. The recently adopted EU Directive on Adequate Minimum Wages is a real win for workers and trade unions. Not only is this good for millions of workers in Europe facing a terrible cost of living crisis, it is also an important step towards strengthening trade union rights and collective bargaining. We want to see not just minimum wages but living wages across Europe in our industry.”

The workshop discussed various potential social impacts as well as potential measures at national and European level which could mitigate any negative impacts. Fair trade, including establishing a more level global playing field, was stressed as being important for workers as well as employers.

Judith Kirton-Darling added:

‘’Special attention needs to be paid to vulnerable groups who might be more affected by the green and digital transition, such as female workers or the ageing workforce, who will need to be reskilled. IndustriAll Europe insists on a Just Transition, where no TCLF worker or region should be left behind, and we will continue to work on the transition pathway and push for the inclusion of strong social dialogue, good collective agreements, fair pay and good working conditions in the final document.”

A final workshop will be held on 20 October, which will include input from the sustainable, resilient and digital pillar, with the aim to produce a final transition pathway by the beginning of next year.

“This is not only a concern in the textile eco-system”, concluded Judith Kirton-Darling, “We want to see all the industrial eco-systems engaging with the social dimension as transition pathways are developed within the EU industrial strategy”.