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T
he idea of a global initiative for living wages sees its first light with the concern for the dramatically different criteria used by global corporations to compensate their workers in the developed world and those that they have in the so-called developing world. Thus, a clear need to address this problem, in the most direct manner, and find concrete and realistic solutions that could be taken to fruition and implemented successfully was identified.

There are already many efforts in progress aimed at global corporations, many of them based on the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Others are more specific and focus exclusively on labour rights. Nonetheless, albeit many programs demand from corporations a full compliance with the core conventions of the International Labour Organisation, few address the issue of living wages. Furthermore, even when the issue is addressed, there does not seem to be enough emphasis on the fact that the hunger wages that many corporations regularly pay to their workers in the countries of the South is the most pervasive element in a structure that, by design, systematically exploits workers in the South. It is a fact that cheap labour sourcing is the primary role assigned to the nations in the South in the global market system.

In this way, between 1999 and 2002, extensive comparative research was conducted with the aim of specifically identifying the key variables necessary to develop a new living wage concept, a concept that would become the edifice of a specific solution to the wage gap. To be sure, this solution required a concrete strategy to make it realistic and effective in reaching consensus among all stakeholders and, thus, realistic in reaching its objective. This is how The Living Wages North and South Initiative (TLWNSI) has emerged as a long-term strategic program to engage all stakeholders and gradually transform the current North-South wage gap into a new system with benefits for all.

In this way, in mid 2002, TLWNSI was introduced as a permanent working draft to different sectors of organised Global Civil Society. The objective was to bounce it back and forth among different stakeholders, such as free trade unions, consumer organisations, research centres and other stakeholders devoted to social justice, and enrich its concept and strategy with their experience in order to increase its effectiveness. As a result, TLWNSI is now positioned as a CSR concept with a tri-dimensional scope encompassing the impact of a corporation's activity on the social, economical and environmental dimension. Our distinctive characteristic is that we define living wages as the fundamental element of our concept. This implies that, contrary to conventional wisdom, global civil society cannot consider a corporation socially responsible if it fails to pay a living wage to all direct and indirect workers, even if it complies with all other responsibilities. Concurrently, The Jus Semper Global Alliance has begun to take shape with the formal commitment of many of these stakeholders to the further development and promotion of the Alliance with TLWNSI as its sole initiative. Also, TJSGA joined OECD Watch in 2005 and the Economic Social and Cultural Rights Network in 2008, for we share a strong affinity in our visions and missions.

We envision to maintain the gradual expansion of our Alliance into all continents with members that considered the payment of living wages a crucial and sine qua non element of genuinely responsible business practice.

 


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