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EWPCC seminar: Sustainability – What does it mean for worker representatives and working conditions in retail?

A joint workshop of the ETUI and UNI-Europa focusing on sustainable working conditions in the retail sector took place on 5 June 2012 in Brussels. More than 30 worker representatives from the European retail sector participated in this workshop, which focused on new instruments for improving working conditions. Sustainability reporting practices, the methodology of rating agencies, the use of global framework agreements and the potential role of European Works Councils were discussed as potential tools for monitoring and improving working conditions in retail. The preliminary results of a study on reporting practices in the 50 largest European retailers were also presented.

What does sustainability mean for workers and their representatives in the retail sector? Is sustainability reporting addressing the key concerns of workers? Can worker participation rights and framework agreements be used to make working conditions more sustainable?

Up to now the debate on company sustainability has been dominated by management and the rating agencies. The purpose of this one-day workshop was to give participants an overview of the main practices use to evaluate and report on the sustainability of working conditions in the retail sector. Best practice cases were where worker representatives have used these tools in the interests of workers. Finally, a “workers’ agenda” for influencing the sustainability debate to improve working conditions was developed.

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