Training, capacity building efforts benefit workers at H&M supplier factory

FLA’s progress tracking charts (PTCs) use key performance indicators to document and illustrate the impact of capacity building measures taken by a factory after receiving training in a certain area. For each FLA Toolbox – Hours of Work, Grievance Procedures, Fair Wages, etc. – a set of key indicators have been developed to collect quantitative data and a structured reporting sheet to collect qualitative information like opinions, feelings, and experiences from the workers and management. After an FLA capacity building program is completed, performance indicators are collected every month for about 10 – 12 months, after which an impact assessment is conducted. This allows all involved parties to see the impact of the capacity building activities, track the implementation of new policies and procedures, and initiate corrective changes if necessary. PTCs are an important source of information for the independent external assessor, who will verify the accuracy of the PTC data in the course of the final impact assessment.  For more information on PTCs, please click here.

H&M Case Study: Worker Participation in Progress Tracking Charts
In 2010, an H&M supplier factory started a Worker Participation training program in collaboration with the FLA, which will continue with a final impact assessment and meeting later in 2011. Over the course of three training sessions, 25 people – including worker representatives, factory-level management and group company management – discussed communication and dialogue within the factory, the importance of worker representatives, problem identification and root-cause analysis, effective training methods, negotiation techniques, and problem solving and conflict resolution methods. FLA asked training participants to submit progress reports to focus the factory throughout the duration of the program. Following the training period, the factory entered its implementation and progress tracking phase, during which workers and management have the opportunity to apply the lessons learned in training, communicate the training to the rest of the workforce, implement improvements, and practice the new skills learned. Through the information collected in these PTCs, H&M and FLA can see the actual changes in the policies, procedures and practices within the factory, and work with the factory to address negative feedback and problem areas.

Information gathered in the H&M progress tracking charts reveals that:

WORKERS ARE EMPOWERED AND AWARE: Workers feel freer to make suggestions and express their opinions, and the worker representative is perceived to have more influence on the decisions made at the factory. Workers are aware of their rights, the importance of communication and the workers’ committee, and there are regular meetings of workers to promote sustainable change. In response to the question, “Have you had any positive interactions between workers and management since the training?”, management responded that “employees are more proactive in solving problems”; and that “worker representatives are more aware of their responsibilities and how to help other employees.”  Workers said that they are “more aware of the workers’ committee, its functions and how to use it”; and that they are “more aware of their rights, and hold regular meetings.”

WORKERS’ WELFARE HAS IMPROVED: Living standards have slightly improved, communications channels are better maintained, there is increased support during peak seasons when everyone needs to work more, and the factory has organized a field trip and has arranged transportation for workers who wished to return to their home town for Chinese New Year, both of which were very well received by the workers. Respondents indicated that “worker welfare has improved”; “shift changes now get input from workers”; and “policies are only adapted after workers’ consensus and agreement,” while “the [company-organized] trip and party made everyone very happy.” Read the rest of this entry »

New Era Hosts Supply Chain Partnership Symposium

New Era SymposiumFLA participating company New Era Cap recently hosted its 2011 Supply Chain Partnership Symposium in Shanghai, China, which brought together over 100 participants from New Era’s supply chain in China and Vietnam, as well as guest speakers from Major League Baseball, InFact Global Partners, the China Center for Labor and Environment, and the Esquel Group. Over the three days, participants had the opportunity to learn, discuss, and exchange ideas on how to address challenges in manufacturing and improve collaboration in the supply chain. Topics for this year’s Symposium included: Addressing Environmental Impacts for a Sustainable Future; Sustainable Textile Production and Vertical Integration; and Understanding and Preventing Workplace Violence. This type of collaboration and attention to sustainability issues is vital to the long-term success and growth of companies, and FLA commends New Era for their work. Read more about the event here.

Work of MFA Forum concludes; group releases Guidelines for Managing Responsible Transitions

The MFA Forum is wrapping up its work after more than 6 years of discussing and finalizing recommendations and examining the impact on apparel workers resulting from the end of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement quota system.  As part of this group, FLA has worked with hundreds of other NGOs, trade unions, businesses, and others committed to promoting responsible competitiveness in key exporting countries in the expanding global marketplace.

The MFA Forum has produced a document called Guidelines for Managing Responsible Transitions, which provides recommendations for ensuring worker protection in the wake of factory exits by sourcing companies or factory closures.  From the document:

“Where retrenchments or closures are inevitable the key actors should work together to mitigate the negative social consequences, and in particular:

  • Where possible, buyers should maintain their current country supply base and contain consolidation in-country. If exiting a country, they should do so in a manner that respects the fundamental rights at work, international labour standards and national law and enables and encourages suppliers to do the same.
  • Workers should be paid their legal entitlements including social security, pensions and severance and should have access to job banks and retraining programmes.
  • In the event of factory closures the key actors should prioritize the promotion of opportunities for the employment for displaced workers in the remaining and/or new textiles and garment factories.
  • Displaced workers should have access to government-provided social safety nets.”

Download the MFA Forum’s Guidelines for Managing Responsible Transitions for details.

Minimum wage a sensitive issue for Hong Kong workers, companies and consumers

A recent survey by Oxfam Hong Kong showed that more than 81 percent of Hong Kong residents would be “less inclined to patronise a company that violated the rights and interests of its employees.”  The survey comes just weeks before the statutory minimum wage goes into effect May 1.  According to Oxfam, some companies may cancel paid meal breaks and eliminate rest days to counter the cost of paying the minimum wage.  The majority of respondents opposed these measures, and “agreed that respecting workers’ rights is part of a company’s social responsibility.”  Read more from Oxfam Hong Kong and review the report here.

Wage fairness is more complex than just the money; the minimum wage may veil undue wage disparities or may not appropriately reflect worker productivity. It is essential that all stakeholders continue working together towards making wages fair for all workers.  Read more about FLA’s work on wage issues.