原創翻譯:龍騰網 http://www.ciqjm.icu 翻譯:大衛王 轉載請注明出處

A nationalliving wage is on the table. Now let’s talk about a global living wage


Australia’s HarvesterJudgement of 1907 defined a living wage as ‘fair and reasonable’ paymentsufficient for an unskilled worker to support a family in reasonable comfort.


Theidea of the living wage is back on the political agenda. In the United Statesthe Democrats are proposing to double the federal minimum wage. In Australiathe federal Labor Party has promised to deliver a living wage.


“A living wage should make sure people earn enough tomake ends meet, and be informed by what it costs to live in Australia today –to pay for housing, for food, for utilities, to pay for a basic phone and dataplan,” Opposition leader Bill Shorten said this week.

反對黨領袖Bill Shorten本周表示:“應該了解現在澳大利亞生活的成本——衣、食、住、用、行的費用,以便保障人們的收入可以維持生計。”

Theprinciple of the living wage is the subject of my book published in January. Towrite the book I spent five years researching working conditions in countriesincluding Australia, Bulgaria, Cambodia, India and Thailand.


Twelveyears later the principle was enshrined in international labour law, when theInternational Labour Organisation was established in 1919. It defined a livingwage as one “adequate to maintain a reasonable standard of life as this isunderstood in their time and country”.


Acentury on, Australia’s industrial relations system has long abandoned thecentral premise of the living wage. Around the world being paid enough to liveon remains elusive. We are all intimately connected to many of these workers.They have assembled the phones we handle. They have sewn our clothes.


Bangladeshi garmentworker Marium lost her left arm when an eight-storey building in Dhakacollapsed in April 2012. A reported 1,134 workers died in the tragedy.


Womenin Bangladesh who make clothes for brands such as Big W, Kmart, Target andCotton On earn as little as 51 cents an hour, according to an Oxfam reportpublished last month.

樂施會上月發布的一份報告顯示,孟加拉國為Big W、Kmart、Target和Cotton等品牌制作服裝的女性每小時的工資僅為51美分。

Thereport is based on interview with 470 garment workers in Bangladesh andVietnam. Three-quarters of the Vietnam workers and all of the Bangladeshiworkers earned less than a living wage (as calculated by the Global Living WageCoalition).


Fear of capital flight


Itis very hard for workers to mobilise for higher wages in many countries aroundthe world. In January 5,000 garment workers in Bangladesh were sacked after going on strike for higher wages.During protests, police shot dead one worker. More than 50 others were injured.Striking garment workers in Cambodia have also been shot dead by police duringprotests.


Cambodian garmentworkers assist a woman injured during a protest in Phnom Penh on January 3,2014.


Especiallyin price-sensitive industries, globalisation exerts strong pressure ongovernments to keep minimum wages low, lest any increase lead to “capitalflight”. This competition pits countries in a race to the bottom.


Shouldlabour costs go up in Bangladesh, for example, its government fears garmentbrands moving production to, say, Ethiopia. It’s a legitimate fear; in my 15years of research I’ve seen whole garment factories dismantled and truckedacross borders to countries where the labour is cheaper.


Cooperation is the answer


Theobvious solution would be for countries to cooperate and raise minimum wagescollectively and incrementally (at an agreed percentage every year). Thisapproach would help overcome “first mover risk”. Business would have lessincentive to look for cheaper labour elsewhere.


Emulating trade law


However,there is one area of international law that comes close to what we usuallythink of as law: international trade and investment law.


Inaddressing goals like reducing tariffs, countries faced similar coordinationproblems. Beginning with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which cameinto effect in 1948, half a dozen major multilateral trade deals werenegotiated before the agreement in 1994 to establish the World TradeOrganisation.


TheWTO has since adjudicated hundreds of disputes in which one nation has accusedanother of failing to meet its WTO commitments. Investors can also take statesto tribunals to seek compensation for unfair behaviour. States take thesetribunals very seriously.


Whynot emulate this architecture of international trade law for living wages?


Insteadof having separate national conversations about living wages, now is a goodtime to start the conversation at a global scale.