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Jean Jenkins

This case study uses the example of a fatal fire at the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Pakistan in 2012 to explore issues around the realisation of labour rights and enforcement of voluntary codes of corporate social responsibility in today’s international garment sector. While the case example is taken from one sector, the issues it raises have broader application in global value chains characterized by labour-intensive, low-skilled and low-paid work where workers have low associational and structural power. Thus, for example, similar employment relations issues pertain in light electronics assembly, the shoe and leather sectors and may also be seen in low-skilled service sectors. Furthermore, weak enforcement of regulation, be that private or statutory, is a matter of concern wherever workers face considerable barriers in organizing to defend their interests in work and employment. The intensified exploitation of workforces, particularly where workers enter employment already socio-economically disadvantaged and casualisation and informalisation of employment contracts is a feature of workplace relations, is not limited to a single sector or place.