Concerning labour standards:
On 25 November 2016 the complainant claimed the following:
1. If workers feel sick, they are not allowed to ask for sick leave.
2. Pregnant workers are required to operate machines, even in the embroidering section where the noise level is excessive and unhealthy.
3. If pregnant workers who are cutting strings from caps cannot meet the production target, they are required to pay 100% of their social security themselves.
4. The factory has a monetary fine policy to discipline workers. For instance, if workers inform audit teams about the true labour conditions and this is discovered, they will be fined 100 RMB.
5. The Code of Labour Practices of the factory’s clients is only posted when audit teams visit. When audit teams distribute contact information cards to the interviewees, these cards are confiscated by the factory afterwards.
6. The is a problem with excessive overtime hours:
a) Workers have at most 2 days off per month. If workers do not agree to the overtime arrangement, they are requested to resign.
b) The production manager always forces workers to use their lunch breaks to produce more pieces, in order to catch up with delivery.
c) From 7 August to 18 September 2016, it was arranged that some workers from the cutting workshops would work at another factory affiliated to the factory to do excessive overtime hours.
d) Since 25 September 2016 most workers are required to work every Sunday and they are not allowed to record these Sunday hours.
e) On 29 October 2016 (Saturday), workers worked overtime hours from 17:30 to 20:30. The factory turned off the attendance machines and the CCTV surveillance system in order to not record these hours.
f) On 30 October 2016 (Sunday), all workers worked Sunday overtime hours and the attendance machines and CCTV surveillance system were turned off.
g) On 6 November 2016 (Sunday), a portion of the workers from factory nr. 1 and factory nr. 2 worked overtime hours.
h) On 12 November 2016 (Saturday), workers at factory nr. 2 worked overtime hours from 17:30 to 20:30.
i) On 13 November 2016 (Sunday), all workers worked overtime hours.
j) On 14 November 2016, the packing workers from factory nr. 2 worked overtime hours till 21:30.
k) On 19 November 2016, the packing workers from factory nr. 2 worked overtime hours till 22:10.
l) All hours that are not recorded into the attendance machines are not paid.
On 4 December 2016 the complainant informed FWF that, on 26 November 2016, the entire workforce from plant nr. 1 worked overtime hours from 17:00 to 20:30. Furthermore, the workers from hat brim, finishing and packing section in plant nr. 1, worked from 7:30 until 17:00-20:30.
On 27 December the complainant contacted FWF again and stated that, whenever there is an audit, the factory hides all true documents. An audit (not affiliated with FWF) was held in the week of 22-26 December 2016, for which workers were interviewed. According to the complainant, workers did not dare tell the truth out of fear of retaliation or deduction of their production bonus.
In addition, the factory requested that the street vendors outside the factory not share information regarding factory working hours with auditors/strangers.
Findings and conclusions
Schoffel reached out to the factory management and discussed the situation with them in December 2016. At the same time, different FWF members established contact with FLA members to share information about the situation in the factory. FWF members agreed that a WEP training was needed as part of the remediation. 9 People from the factory management and 106 workers were trained separately. A verification audit was scheduled to supply an update on the status of the issues mentioned in the complaint. Working hours are now controlled to be within 60 hours/week and workers say they do not work more than 6 days consecutively. Workers stated that compared with 2016, their working hours have been reduced. The off-site observations found that the observed overtime hours were consistent with the attendance records provided by the factory. Our auditors have not found any sign of workers being coached this time. No non- compliance issues regarding sick leave or the treatment of pregnant workers were found. Due to the fact that no excessive overtime was found the complaint has been closed. However, FWF strongly advises its members to take further action in the form of production planning analysis and to urge other FLA members sourcing at the factory to do the same.
Overview of the complaint investigation
The members agreed that Schoffel and Odlo would take the lead in the follow up. Schoffel forwarded the complaint report to the factory management on 25 November 2016 and discussed the complaint during a visit to the headquarters in December 2016. The documentation that they received from the factory - including attendance records - was discussed with FWF members and a sales representative of the factory during ISPO in February 2017.
At the same time, different FWF members established contact with FLA members to share information about the situation in the factory.
FWF members agreed that a WEP training was needed as part of the remediation. 9 People from the factory management and 106 workers were trained separately. The trainer asked the workers about the current working hours. Workers informed the trainer that they sometimes did a lot of overtime hours, especially in peak season and in the case of tight deliveries. At the same time, workers felt that the factory has improved their internal grievances system; and the factory responds actively to complaints and tries to to provide a pragmatic solution.
A verification audit was scheduled to supply an update on the status of the issues mentioned in the complaint. Working hours are now controlled to be within 60 hours/week and workers say they do not work more than 6 days consecutively. Workers stated that compared with 2016, their working hours have been reduced. The off-site observations found that the observed overtime hours were consistent with the attendance records provided by the factory.
Our auditors have not found any sign of workers being coached this time. No non- compliance issues regarding sick leave or the treatment of pregnant workers were found.
One of the reasons that probably contributed to the improved working hours situation is that extra employees were hired. There are now more than 1300 production workers. Unfortunately, according to interviewed workers, the work intensity has increased significantly with the introduction of the computer hanger lines.
The FWF complaint handler tried checking in again with the complainant, but the email address of the complainant is no longer working.
Due to the fact that the audit team noted that excessive overtime has been reduced, and no non compliance was found regarding pregnant workers and sick leave, the complaint can be closed.
Though the complaint can be closed, FWF strongly advises its members to take further action.
For lasting improvement on working hours, the work intensity that workers mentioned during the audit needs to be addressed.
Members are recommended to make a production planning of their orders at the factory. Even though they may be too small to directly cause overtime, such an analysis can help to ensure orders are not placed during peak time and in this way indirectly lead to overtime. Mammut has done a similar analysis at another Chinese factory that experienced extreme overtime and may help other FWF members with a similar analysis.
FWF advises that the results of this audit are shared with FLA members active in the factory. They can ask whether FLA has been active in the reduction of overtime, and whether they have organised a training in the factory. Additional training programs to help raise awareness on labour standards and explain the calculation of wages to workers could be explored.
FWF members could urge FLA members to conduct a similar production planning analysis and discuss with the supplier where changes in lead times and planning are needed to ensure reasonable working hours.