FWF stakeholders discuss transparency in garment industry

date: 30/11/2017

What should transparency in the garment industry look like?  On 8 November, FWF and 40 industry stakeholders discussed these topics during FWF’s annual International Stakeholder Meeting in Amsterdam. The key takeaway: the need for greater collaboration.

This year’s topic was Transparency. The day was spent exploring the current state of the garment industry, and discussing how more transparency could be helpful in ensuring better conditions across all levels of this complex industry. Various organisations, including the Bangladesh Accord, ILO Better Work and the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textiles, shared their vision on how a more transparent industry could lead to more effective remediation of issues and better compliance.

Collaboration
Participants examined specific cases that are often seen in the industry, such as how to best remediate a complaint from a worker, and discussed how more transparency can help in those situations, and who needs to collaborate in order to make it effective. Industry experts, such as Anna Burger of Cornell University’s New Conversation Programme and Doug Miller, Emeritus Professor of Worker Rights in Fashion at the University of Northumbria, led participants to think about what next steps are required, and what role each actor can play to create systemic change.

Finally, Jos Huber from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs shared the role the government can take to support and encourage a more transparent industry. She challenged the organisations present to work together to take steps forward.

The benefit of a more transparent industry was agreed upon by all, with further discussion needed on what information should be shared and by whom, to have the most impact.  The key takeaway from the day was the need for greater collaboration between actors at all levels of the supply chain – brands, suppliers, multi-stakeholder initiatives, civil society and trade unions. New systems are needed to accurately and effectively share information, and a commitment by all is required.

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Happy Human Rights Day!

date: 08/12/2017

On Human Rights Day 2017, we are happy to share the FWF Best Practice video of Continental Clothing, a pioneer in the movement to ensure that all workers receive a fair wage for their work.

In the video Continental’s Mariusz Stochaj explains how they worked together with a factory in India in order to pay higher wages to the workers. With this innovative Fair Share project in India, Continental Clothing won the FWF Best Practice Award 2016.

Together with local NGO SAVE, Continental Clothing conducted research into how much was needed to pay a living wage: it turned out it was only 10 pence per T-shirt. With this data, Continental devised a plan on how to ensure that the money would go to the workers making the clothes.

‘Everybody’s talking about reducing costs, and suddenly we’re coming along, saying: Hey, I volunteer to pay you more.’

The video gives a good example of how a brand can work to raise the wages of the workers. ‘We’ve demonstrated that it’s possible’, says Mariusz in the video. ‘It shows that India doesn’t have to some kind of a sweatshop.’

Related

country: india
Labour standards: Payment of a living wage

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FWF at UN Business and Human Rights Forum

date: 07/12/2017

FWF was present at the 2017 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva last week. The event brought together more than 2,500 business, government, trade union and NGO representatives to address how human rights can be ensured in globalised supply chains.

FWF’s Martin Curley shared some lessons FWF has learned from its complaints mechanism during a panel discussion on ‘Strengthening access to remedy in multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs)’. This panel also included representatives of the Fair Labour Association, MSIs working in IT and private security, and MSI Integrity, a research NGO that is examining how well MSIs function.

Workers helpline
FWF’s worker helpline and complaints mechanism represents one of the more advanced access-to-remedy systems. FWF members have used this system for many years to assume responsibility in fixing problems when factory-level systems are unable to do so.

‘Access to Remedy’ is a key part of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. It means that when things go wrong for workers in supply chains, companies have a responsibility to remedy this, even if they do not employ the workers directly. Many brands and industries are just starting to tackle these issues. FWF sees the work of its members in resolving complaints as helping to lead the way forward towards compliance with the UN Guiding Principles.

Systemic change
‘What we see coming through the FWF complaints mechanism is indicative of the systemic challenges that are seen throughout the industry,’ Martin told the 120 people in attendance. ‘We are now starting to share lessons on what it actually takes to remediate Code of Labour Practice violations, to hopefully lead to broader and more systemic change.’

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FWF is hiring a webmaster/social media expert!

date: 04/12/2017

 

Fair Wear is hiring a webmaster/social media expert (32 hours/week) for its External Positioning Team. The webmaster/social media expert will be responsible for overseeing FWF’s online presence by maintaining the FWF website (in conjunction with an external web developer) and by regularly publishing content on FWF’s social media channels.

If you are interested, please send your CV with cover letter to vacancy@fairwear.org no later than 1 January 2017.

Click here to read the full vacancy posting.

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Myanmar factories gather to discuss age verification

date: 24/11/2017

FWF looks back on a successful supplier seminar in Myanmar on the topic of age verification. In November, factory representatives, agents and FWF experts exchanged ideas on how to establish a more robust age verification system to prevent child labour. This discussion culminated in a simple FWF guideline.

In Yangon, over 30 representatives of 16 garment factories that produce for FWF member companies came together. With local FWF staff, they exchanged ideas and mechanisms to create a strong age verification system. The participants started off by sharing practical challenges related to age verification.

False ID
Due to high labour mobility from rural to urban commercial centers like Yangon, along with the lack of proper identification documents, it is challenging for factories to verify the age of every worker. Many youth lack ID cards or create falsified ones to apply for a job. Also, in times of high demand, factories recruit new workers without requesting the necessary documents.

A factory’s CSR officer: ‘We recruited a new worker, not knowing that he was a child labourer. But after employing him for some time, we found out that the worker had used falsified documents during the recruitment process. Then, all the responsibility fell upon the factory and we had to provide compensation until he turned 16. That doesn’t seem fair.’

FWF Guidance
Taking all the factories’ challenges into account, FWF introduced a simple age verification guideline to help prevent garment factories from recruiting children, even unwittingly. The guideline strongly recommends the factories to follow six steps of good practices for age verification whenever they recruit new workers.

These six age verification steps are: 1) Child labour policy; 2) Document check; 3) Interview with the candidate worker; 4) Medical check; 5) Checklist to document all HR steps for age verification; and 6) Training of HR staff.

You can read FWF’s Guidance on age verification at garment factories in Myanmar here.

Related

country: myanmar
Labour standards: No exploitation of child labour

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And the winner is…Schijvens!

date: 10/11/2017

Dutch workwear brand Schijvens wins Best Practice Award

 

Schijvens is the proud winner of this year’s FWF Best Practice Award. The Dutch workwear brand managed to establish a living wage at their supplier in Turkey. Schijvens faced the challenge of wages being paid under the table, without proper registration systems. They learned some valuable lessons during the process, including figuring out the needs of local workers and the importance of raising all salaries (not just the lowest ones) to maintain wage differences that reflect workers’ skills and experience.

Loyal employees

Their successful introduction of a living wage in the factory is an exciting step. As Schijvens explained in their submission, ‘While the main beneficiaries are the employees who got a salary raise, we believe that paying a good salary will also lead to loyal hardworking employees, so in the end Schijvens will also benefit.’

For over 150 years, Schijvens has operated in the Netherlands as a family-owned business, specializing in casual, contemporary corporate clothing with tailor-made designs. Schijvens places a high value on sustainability and has been active as a FWF member since 2010.

Welfare fund

The two runners-up of the 2017 Best Practice Award were German outdoor brand Jack Wolfskin and German fashion brand Hessnatur. When one of Jack Wolfskin’s suppliers in Indonesia went bankrupt, the brand stepped up by establishing a welfare fund to help support the affected factory workers. They calculated the unpaid wages and severance owed and compensated workers with the proportionate amount based on the brand’s production share.

Joint training programme

Hessnatur collaborated with a non FWF-member brand to improve internal communication between management and workers at a supplier in Turkey through a joint training programme. They did so in response to a complaint about freedom association that they received through the FWF helpline and were determined to foster a long-term relationship of trust and open dialogue with the factory. Elected workers’ representatives now meet monthly with factory management.

The other shortlisted entries this year were submitted by VAUDE, Mammut, and Stanley and Stella. Fair Wear Foundation is extremely proud of these member brands for their excellent achievements in improving working conditions and for serving as role models for other brands that are hoping to create sustainable change in the garment industry.

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#MeToo: garment workers speak up

date: 06/11/2017

This is the story of a 46-year old female worker from a garment factory in Tirupur, India.

‘When the company announced that an anti-harassment committee would be formed, I stood for election. The main reason is that I feel harassed at home, and strongly feel that the company should be a safe place. I live alone with my husband, since our only daughter is married. He is a drunkard, who does not work and keeps asking me for money. We have a debt of over 1400 euros.

Trying to forget it
I have to do everything at home. I cook before I leave for work in the morning. When I reach home at 8pm, I fetch water from the public taps, I cook again, I clean and do the laundry. I sleep at around midnight, but often I am not able to sleep, because my husband keeps harassing me.

There are many female workers in a similar home situation. When we are at work, we all want to leave our home problems outside. We keep busy and keep talking about other things to forget about it. What happens outside, is a shame.

Girls cannot go out
When we were growing up, and some boys or men were sitting on the street, we were told to cross the road to avoid them. We would not go where the boys were playing. Girls cannot go out, but they are sometimes shown to dozens of men to find a groom. It makes them feel bad.

Our committee keeps meeting and keeps discussing these issues. In the FWF training, we have learnt that we can even work against vulgar language and teasing. I want to ensure that what we learn here, will be implemented outside the factory too. It has to be done, and it can be done.’

#MeToo
In wake of the #MeToo campaign more and more people are coming forward to share their stories of sexual assault and/or harassment, including garment workers. A disturbingly high percentage of garment workers report verbal and physical abuse and sexual harassment, as well as forced labour, assault and rape.

This shortened story is part of a FWF publication on the work FWF does to prevent and reduce gender-based violence in garment factories. The full publication will be available  during the UN’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign. Keep an eye on our website. 

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Gender Forum 2017 kicks off in Vietnam

date: 02/10/2017

The Gender Forum 2017 has started on Monday morning! During this three day event in Vietnam, businesses, governments, NGOs and trade unions will share solutions to help put an end to gender-based violence in garment factories, a persistent and widespread problem.

In Ha Long Bay, around 100 professionals have come together to discuss initiatives to fight and prevent discrimination and gender-based violence in the garment industry. Millions of female garment workers are victims of harassment at work.  They report verbal and physical abuse and sexual harassment, as well as forced labour, assault and rape.

FWF & partners
The training and knowledge-sharing event is organised by Fair Wear Foundation in close cooperation with the International Training Centre of the ILO (ITCILO) and Dutch unions Mondiaal FNV and CNV Internationaal, FWF’s partners in the Strategic Partnership for Garment Supply Chain Transformation. The partnership is active in Vietnam and seven other garment-producing countries.

FWF has a history of working on gender issues in the garment industry. Since 2012 FWF has worked on establishing anti-harassment committees in factories in Bangladesh and India. In India, FWF launched a supervisor training programme. By training female workers to become supervisors, the programme aims to reduce economic discrimination and change gender stereotypes

ILO Convention
CNV Internationaal works hard to achieve a new ILO convention against violence on the workplace. CNV and Mondiaal FNV work with local partner unions in fighting gender based violence on factory level. Just recently, Mondiaal FNV cooperated with the Indonesian federation FBLP. They developed a course covering the different aspects that women face on the work floor, including violence.

Sexual harassment and violence against women are widespread problems in the garment industry where women make up about 80 percent of the workforce. Female garment workers constitute a highly vulnerable group. They are often young, poor, unskilled, sometimes illiterate, and often single women in a society dominated by strong gender hierarchies.

  • Want to know more? Don’t miss our Gender Forum updates from Ha Long Bay on Twitter and Facebook!

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FWF strengthens stakeholder relations in Myanmar

date: 07/09/2017

FWF’s Koen Oosterom just returned from a mission to Myanmar. Together with FWF country representative San Latt Phyu he visited local FWF stakeholders to exchange knowledge on the local garment sector.

San Latt and Koen met with several FWF stakeholders. They visited suppliers to FWF brands, local NGOs, a business association and trade union, the ILO and the Dutch embassy.

Living wages
At the Ministry of Labour in Nay Pyi Taw FWF introduced its work by showing the Burmese version of the FWF Formula and a recently published video on Living Wages in Myanmar. The Permanent Secretary and his team expressed high interest in FWF’s work.

Myanmar is becoming increasingly important as a garment production country.  At present, there are approximately 350 garment factories. They face high risks for violations to labour rights including low wages, long working hours, repression of union members and child labour.

FWF has seen a slow but steady increase in the number of factories in Myanmar that FWF members source from. Currently 13 FWF members are sourcing from the country.

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Romanian version of FWF Formula online

date: 24/08/2017

The Romanian version of the Fair Wear Formula video is released.

The short film highlights the main issues facing garment workers, why finding solutions is so complicated, and what brands and consumers can do to help make improvements.

The video will help introduce FWF to stakeholders and factory managers as well as workers in Romania. It will be used in trainings for workers, managers and supervisors.

The textile and garment industry is one of the most important sectors of Romanian industry and one of the main employers in Romania, with women being the majority of workers. FWF has been carrying out factory audits in the country since 2006.

The Fair Wear Formula is available in over ten languages. You can watch all films on FWF’s YouTube channel.

 

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