Chapter 7: Human rights and transnational social contracts: the recognition and inclusion of homeworkers?
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The chapter argues for a plural, overlapping perspective of social contracts at city, national, regional and global levels. Drawing on the lived realities of informal homeworkers in developing countries, this chapter explores the idea of social contracts that 'transcend national structures' with a focus on a social contract in the garment sector. Drawing on Olin-Wright's typology of power, the chapter analyses the Rana Plaza Accord to illustrate sources of worker power other than industrial action and to show that the legitimacy and durability of any social contract necessitates the participation of all stakeholders. Thereafter, and from the perspective of homeworkers, the chapter analyses the eminent European Union legislative framework that seeks to hold corporations accountable for labour rights violations in their supply chains. It argues that a social contract that is institutionalised through human rights, rather than labour law, has three advantages for homeworkers. First human rights operate transnationally, whereas labour law's jurisdiction is limited to the country where the labour is rendered. Second, unlike labour law, human rights law extends protection to all workers, not only employees. Finally, collective bargaining and social dialogue are premised on a closed, tripartite set of actors that participate in decision-making: trade unions, the state, and employer bodies. Human rights legitimately bring other actors, including a broad range of civil society organisations and consumer bodies into the law-making, social contracting processes, even if informally.