Decent work outcomes in supply chains

Fair global supply chains: In Serbia, ILO and GIZ collaborate to improve grievance mechanisms

Violations of human rights, as well as social and environmental standards continue to occur in global supply chains. Workers are often unable to report breaches of labour rights or industry practices detrimental to occupational safety and health. The Initiative for Global Solidarity of Germany wants to change this by developing complaint mechanisms in German companies’ supply chains. The ILO, with support from German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), will work on improving the system of mediation and grievance in Serbian enterprises.

News | 06 March 2023
Following its adoption in 2021, the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (SCDDA) came into force on January 1, 2023. German companies will be held legally responsible for respecting human rights including labour rights and environmental standards in their global supply chains. The law requires companies to identify and assess risks to human rights and the environment within their supply chains and establish effective risk management systems.

The new act explicitly mentions risks such as poor health and safety conditions at work, employment discrimination, wage discrimination, disregard of freedom of association and collective bargaining, and causing harm to the environment. According to the Act, companies must offer complaint mechanisms through which human rights risks and violations can be pointed out. The SCDDA also prescribes that the effectiveness of this complaint procedure is regularly reviewed. 

Serbia has been selected by GIZ as a pilot country with a significant number of enterprises producing for German companies in the automotive, electrical and textile industry.

Thus far, the institutional arrangement of the grievance mechanism in the country has primarily consisted of the procedures of mediation and arbitration offered by the Agency for Amicable Settlement of Labour Disputes (AASLD), while the Office of Commissioner for Equality Protection has been in charge of prevention of discrimination at work. Grievance mechanisms on the factory floor have been neglected in the past and were limited to informal mechanism involving primarily the HR officers on company level.

In response to these challenges, the ILO/GIZ project will work to strengthen the AASLD, increase its visibility and promote the Equality code prepared in collaboration with the Office of Commissioner for Equality Protection. It will raise awareness among workers throughout the country about the work of these institutions, as well as the services of compliance officers to be trained by the project in 20 selected companies belonging to the three target industries. Additionally, it will provide broader training for its mediators and arbiters in order to ensure solid service delivery.