FLA Hosts Training on Wage Issues in China

On January 3 and 4, 2012, FLA hosted a training session in Shenzhen, China, for accredited monitoring organizations and others wishing to learn more about the Fair Wage Approach developed by Daniel Vaughn-Whitehead of the ILO. During the training, attendees debated the piece rate payment system that is widely used in Chinese factories. This system pays employees per garment produced and is often implemented because it seems transparent and easily understood by both workers and managers. However, this approach can result in long working hours due to the incentive to produce a high quantity of goods. It also fails to build loyalty in the workforce and can lead to a poorer-quality product.

Some attendees suggested a mixed-pay system that could combine the piece rate system with performance incentives. These incentives could be quality-based, skills-based or even attitude-based, rewarding an employee for contributing to a positive working environment. This mixed approach, they said, could help keep the compensation system simple to understand and manage, while incentivizing workers to invest in their skills, the workplace atmosphere, and quality of the goods they produced.

Learn more about FLA’s approach to wage issues in supply chains.


Addressing root causes of excessive overtime

This is a guest post from Korhan Tinaztepe, Assessment Manager for the Fair Labor Association based in Istanbul.

On October 19 and 20, the FLA and Business Social Compliance Initiative hosted a joint workshop in Istanbul, Turkey. The workshop – titled “Working Toward Improving Social Compliance” – brought together brands and suppliers to discuss excessive overtime, which is a chronic problem for workers in the garment sector and is especially prominent in Turkey. Over 60 participants joined the conference each day to discuss the root causes of Hours of Work compliance violations during factory assessments.

BSCI/FLA Training

FLA & BSCI staff conduct workshop on Hours of Work in Istanbul, Turkey

Root causes for excessive overtime can be traced back to a lack of policies and procedures related to hours of work, and poor planning and time management at the brand and/or factory level. Evidence from assessments and field reports over the years have shown that excessive overtime is hazardous to workers and can limit productivity at the factory level. Unfortunately, however, solutions to limiting hours of work tend to be only temporary because the root causes are not being addressed. Read the rest of this entry »


Department of Labor Grants Funds to Eliminate International Child Labor

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Sen. Harkin (left) and Labor Sec. Hilda Solis (right) at the event on Oct. 3

On October 3, 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor launched its annual Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor. The report contains more than 140 country profiles, focusing on hazardous work performed by children. The report includes major findings on each central government’s efforts to address the worst forms of child labor; gaps in legislation, enforcement, policies, and programs; and proposed actions for each government to consider in addressing those gaps.

The DOL hosted a special event in support of the report launch, with Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, Senator Tom Harkin, Ambassador of the Philippines Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., International Labor Organization – International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (ILO-IPEC) and others.  The DOL announced grants totaling $32.5 million to organizations focused on eliminating child labor internationally.

The FLA commends the Labor Department for its ongoing efforts to combat child labor. All FLA company affiliates have agreed, as stated in the FLA Workplace Code, that “no person shall be employed under the age of 15 or under the age for completion of compulsory education, whichever is higher,” and FLA affiliated universities, NGOs and companies will continue working together toward the elimination of child labor in global supply chains.


Examining the Impact of Long Hours on Factory Workers

FLA’s research, assessments and surveys over the past two years confirm that excessive working hours have a negative impact on workers, often resulting in physical and psychological stress for workers and increased worker turnover. FLA surveys in China found that an estimated 50 percent of workers in the garment industry and 80 percent in electronics manufacturing work more than 60 hours per week, and an estimated 80 percent regularly work more than 7 days in a row.  Even more alarming is the fact that 20 percent sometimes work more than 24 consecutive days without a day of rest.

One argument some have used in defense of excessive working hours is that Chinese factory workers want to work more hours. This argument, however, does not paint the full picture:  45 percent of 1,766 recently-surveyed workers say that their salary would not be sufficient if they did not work more than 60 hours per week. In fact, 40 percent said their salaries were not sufficient to cover basic needs, such as education, health care and housing. In addition, 50 percent of workers reported that excessive working hours make them feel isolated and more prone to sickness.  Many said that they did not get to spend enough time with their families. Only 20 percent of workers felt satisfied with their job.

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Brand, factory and supplier representatives gather at an FLA event to discuss solutions to problems caused by long work hours.

Data obtained by FLA shows that those who spend an excessive number of hours at work are eight times more likely to be unhappy with their job than those with regular hours. In addition, they are six times more likely to show signs of poor mental health.  In short: long working hours create risks to workers’ wellbeing and undermine factories’ retention efforts and long-term productivity. Because of the harmful impact that long hours have on workers, the FLA Workplace Code of Conduct, which is based on international labor standards, states that “the regular work week shall not exceed 48 hours…Employers shall allow workers at least 24 consecutive hours of rest in every seven-day period…[and] the sum of regular and overtime hours in a week shall not exceed 60 hours.”

On September 20, FLA Shanghai hosted a networking event and brief workshop for suppliers and brands operating in or sourcing from factories in China. Session facilitators asked participants to consider how to improve relations at hypothetical “Factory A,” which has high working hours. Read the rest of this entry »


Enhancing Social Protection in the Apparel & Footwear Industry in Central America

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FLA's Jorge Perez-Lopez & Omar Salazar Alvarado of ASEPROLA

On March 17, FLA hosted a seminar and discussion in Washington, D.C., on social protection for apparel and footwear workers, with emphasis on Central America.  Omar Salazar Alvarado, Executive Director of the Asociación de Servicios de Promoción Laboral (ASEPROLA), presented the paper Enhancing Social Protection in the Apparel and Footwear Industry in Central America, which was commissioned by the MFA Forum as part of its Sustainable Apparel and Footwear Initiative. The target countries in the study were Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua – which have seen an estimated 20% decrease in employment in this sector over the past three years caused by the financial crisis in the United States and an increased shift of apparel and footwear production to Asian countries.

The ASEPROLA report presents a series of proposals to strengthen worker protections in the region, focusing on the role of the government, workers and social justice organizations in this effort.  It also provides a general context of the region in terms of employment structure, public policy and laws protecting workers’ rights. Details on wage structures in each of these countries – along with options for worker compensation – can be found in the report as well.  Read the report in English or Spanish.

ASEPROLA Panelists

Veronica Alaimo, Homero Fuentes, Ana Aslan, Jennifer Bair

Mr. Salazar opened with an overview of the report, followed by a panel discussion moderated by FLA’s Executive Director Jorge Perez-Lopez.  Panelists included:

  • Jennifer Bair, Department of Sociology, University of Colorado
  • Ana Aslan, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor
  • Homero Fuentes, COVERCO, Guatemala
  • Veronica Alaimo, Inter-American Development Bank

View Mr. Salazar’s PowerPoint overview of key findings – which he presented at the event – in English or Spanish.