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.


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.’

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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Brands play large role in tackling child labour

date: 07/08/2017

Clothing brands can learn from their peers who dare to be honest about finding child labour in their supply chains, know the risks, try to limit them whenever possible, and take action where necessary. That is the essence of an FWF op-ed that the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre published on its website today.

On behalf of a group of FWF brands, FWF wrote a letter on how garment brands can work together on eradicating child labour. In the letter, brands of Fair Wear Foundation are unusually transparent about child labour in (their) garment supply chains. The cases of Syrian refugee children in Turkey and a garment factory in Myanmar are highlighted as examples of good practices.

Small group of brands
Child labour is still a widespread problem in many sectors, including the garment industry. Garment brands can play an important role in tackling this problem. However, that doesn’t happen enough. FWF brands are not the only ones who have found child labour in their supply chains, far from that. But still, they are part of only a small group of brands who are seriously working on it.

The letter shows that there are steps that garment brands can take towards tackling child labour, using their economic influence. FWF hopes that the letter will motivate other brands to take action too. If more brands were to also step up, FWF members and the industry in general could act more effectively when child labour is discovered.

Hamza and Osman
Child labour is a serious risk in Turkish garment factories. Although it had been on the decline in recent years, the influx of Syrians fleeing the conflict turned the tide. In 2014, FWF auditors spotted the Syrian Hamza (14) and Osman (13) at work in a Turkish textile factory. FWF members sourcing from the factory took responsibility for getting the children out of the factory and back to school for them.
Read more about this case in FWF’s long read on child labour in Turkey: How the Syrian conflict is impacting the Turkish garment sector.

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New FWF video on wages in Myanmar

date: 29/06/2017

Thet Thet Zon, a garment worker in Myanmar, works eleven hours per day, six days per week. Thet Thet talks openly about what she earns, and what she spends, in the latest FWF video. Salaries are currently a topical issue in Myanmar, where the minimum wage is up for review.

Thet Thet has been working as a sewing operator for two years. She earns 125 dollars per month. What does she have left at the end of the month? Not enough. Her low salary forces her to borrow some money, with interest. ‘At the end of the month, I have to settle debts’, she says. ‘So there’s nothing much left. The circle of debts goes on.’

Low wages
Although there are initiatives in Myanmar to improve working conditions, wages are still among the lowest in the world. When Myanmar passed its first minimum wage in September 2015, the legislation was widely perceived as an achievement for labour rights.

Currently the minimum wage is up for review. With the high inflations and rising costs of living, unions and Myanmar’s low-wage garment workers are making the case again for better wages.

Sick leave
Fair Wear Foundation has been working in Myanmar since 2015, mainly focusing on wages, freedom of association and child labour. FWF considers all wages below the legal minimum wage level as violating international labour standards. FWF brands are required to work with their suppliers on higher salaries.
FWF also acts against wage deductions and fines that factories impose to workers for a variety of reasons such as absences due to sick leave, late arrival at work or mistakes.

For more information about Myanmar, read the Myanmar country study. You can find the video about Thet Thet on FWF’s YouTube channel.


country: myanmar
Labour standards: No exploitation of child labour

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FWF presents Gender and Living Wage Approach at FTA Conference

date: 22/06/2017

During the 40th anniversary conference of the Foreign Trade Association in Brussels, FWF participated in two panels, on Living Wages and Gender Equality.

FWF’s Anne van Lakerveld elaborated on FWF’s approach of not focusing on the living wage number, but rather on how to implement higher wages.  She stressed the importance of realising that payment of a living wage starts with the pricing policy of a brand. FWF supports brands to learn this insight and help them ensure that the price they pay is at least enough to cover minimum wage.

Help brands do better
‘Brands would like to address Living Wages but find it difficult to know where to start’, says Anne. She conducted the Living Wage workshop at the FTA conference together with Martha and Richard Anker, authors of the newly published book ‘Living Wages Around the World: Manual for Measurement’.

‘We want to move factories and brands from a culture of ‘This doesn’t happen’ to ‘This is an issue and we know how to prevent and address it’


Lisa Suess presented FWF’s work on gender equality in a panel, alongside the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, ELEVATE, ITUC, DBL Group and OECD. Lisa shared learnings from FWF’s experience in Bangladesh and India. Since 2012, FWF, together with local partners, has been implementing a gender programme in both countries, training factory management, line supervisors and workers on gender-based violence and how to establish anti-harassment committees.



Practical strategies
During the panel Lisa also shared practical strategies that companies can take to prevent  and address gender-based violence. Lisa: ‘The good news is that brands can contribute to gender equality. We often encounter brands which accept that their sourcing practices have an impact on overtime and wage levels, but gender-based violence is perceived as a cultural problem that they cannot influence. The truth is that there is a great deal brands can do.’

To learn more about gender-based violence in global supply chains, check out this resource kit. FWF’s Labour Minute Costing Report helps to calculate how much more a product will cost if living wages are paid, and Living Wages: an explorer’s notebook helps companies start the journey to realise living wages in their supply chains.


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FWF to collaborate with ILO Better Work

date: 19/05/2017

Fair Wear Foundation and ILO Better Work will enter a collaboration to offer the garment companies they work with new benefits and to ultimately enhance their ability to improve labour conditions. The collaboration will officially begin with an 18 month pilot on 1 June 2017.

FWF and Better Work—a flagship programme of the UN’s International Labour Organisation—will join forces to fulfil three primary objectives: 1. coordinating factory assessments to reduce the duplication of audits, 2. streamlining improvement processes so more brands can collaborate on remediation and 3. making a wider range of training opportunities available to tackle priority workplace issues such as sexual harassment, health and safety.

Same objectives
‘Together we are capable of better facilitating cooperation between garment brands on improved working conditions’, says FWF Associate Director Margreet Vrieling. ‘Collaborating with Better Work provides a great opportunity to learn from one other. After all, we have the same objectives, just different approaches.’

The collaboration will also enable both parties to expand their work in strategic new areas. Engaging new European brands and smaller garment companies will bring benefits for Better Work, while Fair Wear Foundation will gain access to data gathered as part of Better Work’s research agenda, for example.

Vietnam & Bangladesh
Chief of Better Work Dan Rees came to the Hague on 18 May to sign the agreement. ‘In an industry with more than 60 million workers and much still to be done to improve adherence to international and national labour standards, we welcome this partnership as a step towards creating decent work for all’ he said during the Human Rights and Garment conference.

The first trial project will start in Vietnam and Bangladesh in factories from which FWF members and Better Work business partners source.

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