'Bananas in chains'? Reflections on global commodity chains and labour movement regulatory initiatives

Bob Fagan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Since the early 1990s the concept of supply chains has been used widely in academic research on globalisation involving a variety of commodities. More recently, supply chain structures, often represented as linear hierarchical relationships, have been used to inform labour movement initiatives aimed at improving conditions faced by workers, farmers and local communities at the bottom of such chains, for example clothing outworkers or those in sweat-shops. This paper takes a step back from the supply chain concept to reflect critically on a broader framework of ideas, usually termed global commodity chain (GCC) analysis (see Gereffi et al. 1994; Lesley and Reimer 1999; Dicken et al., 2001; Bair, 2005). The paper reflects on strengths and weaknesses of GCC analysis. It draws illustrations from on-going research into the global banana industry including: first, attempts by the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF) to improve regulation of environmental and labour standards in key Latin American producing countries; and second, two so-called 'banana wars' since the mid 1990s, the more recent of which involves Australia. These 'wars' focus attention on dispute procedures of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which social scientists often represent as a crucial regulatory agency for neoliberal globalisation. Finally, the paper reflects briefly on what GCC analysis might tell us about supply chain strategies as a basis for labour movement regulatory initiatives.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)31-46
    Number of pages16
    JournalEmployment relations record
    Volume6
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2006

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