Global supply chains (GSCs) present the International Labour Organization (ILO) with a challenge that goes to the heart of its founding mandate and structure, one built on the prominence of nation states and national representatives of employers and workers. In February 2020, discussions in the ILO on the rise of GSCs reached deadlock. To fully understand why the ILO has been unable to address decent work deficits in GSCs greater attention needs to be paid to contestation, power and legitimacy in the deliberation of labour governance. Drawing on the concept of agonistic pluralism we examine the evolution of the ILO’s attempt to establish a new labour standard on GSCs under three empirical phases between 2002 and 2020. We argue that shifting power asymmetries between the tripartite constituents of governments, employers and workers, increased counter-hegemonic contestation, and intensified questioning of the deliberative legitimacy of the adversaries, explain the dissensual relations at the ILO. This article contributes to the literature on labour standards in GSCs in demonstrating how and why contestation underpins the evolution of labour governance over time.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Business and International Management
- Business, Management and Accounting(all)
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Economics and Econometrics