Concerning labour standards:
On 24 July 2017, a sewing machine operator, who is also a member of the Anti-Harassment Committee (AHC), called the FWF helpline. The complainant stated the 6th floor production manager in Building 1 sexually harasses female workers. He propositions female workers to come home and spend the night with him. When he proposed this to the complainant she protested and refused. The production manager subsequently requested that the complainant be transferred to another floor, or he would not continue working in the factory. As a result, management transferred the complainant to the 3rd floor. The complainant stated that harassment, in the form of bullying, shouting and use of profanities, also occurred on the 3rd floor and that two line chiefs, in particular, engaged in such behaviour.
Findings and conclusions
A brand representative, the buying agent and FWF addressed the issue with the factory management. As a result, the accused person (the 6th floor Production Manager) has been fired. The Line Chiefs from building 3 were called to the AHC by the Assistant General Manager in charge of compliance. The Line Chiefs from building 3 were called to the AHC by the Assistant General Manager, who is in charge of compliance. They acknowledged their wrongful behaviour, bullying, shouting and usage of inappropriate language, and apologised to the management. Management and AHC indicated that they will monitor this carefully. FWF visited the 3rd floor (without prior notice) and observed the perpetrators, who were found calm and well-behaved. FWF cross-checked with AHC member and a number of 3rd floor workers and were informed that the perpetrators were trying to improve. As a result, the problems are reducing. In addition, the factory management started to arrange a monthly awareness training session for mid-level management staff (including supervisor, production managers, line chiefs, etc.) with the aim to improve their behaviour and stop any type of harassment. It was agreed that FWF will observe 1 or 2 trainings to make certain that the training content is in line with the high court decision. It was also agreed that the AHC members should be present during the training as well.
Overview of the complaint investigation
FWF talked with a number of general workers and AHC members outside the factory on 25 August 2017 in order to verify the complaint and collect information.
Collected information is as follows:
1. The 6th floor Production Manager had sexually harassed female workers several times before, but these workers did not have the courage to inform management for fear of losing their jobs. Despite being aware of the PM's behaviour, management did not take any disciplinary action against him, enabling the PM to repeatedly harass female workers.
2. When the PM harassed the complainant, an AHC member, she strongly protested. As a result, the PM used his power to transfer the complainant to another floor, otherwise he said he would leave the factory. Management transferred the complainant to the 3rd floor of the same building. However, after she was transferred, other workers in her new department mocked her, saying that she was moved due to the fact that she did something wrong on her old floor.
3. The complainant had worked in this factory for ten years. However, when she was transferred to the 3rd floor, she was put under a lot of pressure with increased production targets that were difficult for her to complete. In addition, sexual harassment was also prevalent on the 3rd floor, where the Production Manager, Line Quality Officer and Line Chiefs engaged in such behaviour. For example, one of the Line Chiefs unnecessarily put a hand on the complainant's back, she then warned him not to behave like that with her. The complainant also stated that she observed Line Chiefs abuse workers with profanities and degrading slang language.
4. A worker from the 5th floor in building 2 stated that the Line 'In-Charge' verbally abused the workers on that floor. Furthermore, the high work load on that floor had often resulted in workers being unable to have their lunch break. Finally, this worker stated that a new Line Chief on the 6th floor of building 2 also addressed workers with degrading slang.
5. Workers reported that any incidents brought to the compliance manager were not followed up on.
6. AHC members were frequently discriminated against by other workers and management alike. Members were mocked with statements such as 'there is actually no power in the committee. There is no point to it.' Furthermore, a pattern emerged where any worker who attended a committee meeting received an increased workload.
On 31 October 2017, a meeting was arranged with the factory management, a Takko brand representative, the buying agent and FWF at the factory to discuss the complaints received. The discussion and recommendations made are as follows:
1. Concering the sexual harassment complaint against the 6th floor Production Manager: When management learned that the PM went to a worker's house, the management dismissed him. FWF asked management to make sure that such actions are not repeated again. Yet, harassment issues may still exist on the floors, so a strong monitoring policy from management is required to tackle that.
2. The complainant, an AHC member, was transferred to the 3rd floor but she requested to be transferred back to the 6th floor, where she had worked for nearly 10 years. Management, however, indicated that this was against administrative procedure, and therefore it was not possible straight away, as it would allow other workers to demand the same in the future. Management expected that the complainant would understand their position and that she would continue working on the 3rd floor for another month, when she would be transferred back to her old position.
3. As to the harassment complaints against the PM, Line Chiefs, and Line Quality of the 3rd floor, management acknowledged these complaints and indicated that they issued a zero tolerance verbal warning. Management also committed to taking necessary actions against the PM, line Chiefs and Line Quality to ensure that such actions are not repeated in the future.
4. The Takko representative indicated that if the working environment does not adequately improve for the workers in the factory, they might stop sourcing there. The buying agent noted that the media is very active and interested in such cases, and if somehow media would come to know about the harassment cases it could cause the factory to lose valuable business. Factory management was advised to take this into consideration.
5. AHC members are subject to harassment and bullying from other workers, which need to be properly addressed. Furthermore, for participating in AHC meetings every two months, AHC members are burdened with extra workload. Factory management need to consider reducing this excess work pressure. A request was made to management to ensure this.
Management mostly agreed to take all the aforementioned concerns into account and to ensure that any necessary actions are carried out. Furthermore, the Takko representative, buying agent and FWF indicated that will conduct periodical follow ups.
On 6 February 2018, Takko received an update from the supplier on the various issues:
1. The accused person (PM, building 6th floor) has been fired. Takko auditors reviewed the personal files of the concluded that he confessed and resigned on 3 August 2017.
2. The complainant willingly resigned due to a family situation. She submitted her resignation letter, which went into effect on 1 December 2017, and which covered her tenure of 10 years and 7 days for this factory. Management accepted her resignation letter and prepared the payment voucher as per law. Proof of the payment voucher with final settlement was reviewed. BDT 57460/= had been paid as the final settlement (Service benefit and earned leave encashment). She received her salary/overtime/attendance bonus based on her last month's salary sheet. The final settlement amounted to 68,325. The factory paid 57,460 by payment voucher, while the remaining amount was paid through her salary sheet.
3. Takko auditors have also gone through records of Anti-Harassment Committee (AHC) meeting, but it seemed committees' activities are limited to keeping records only.
4. Takko auditors interviewed 25 workers, particularly workers from the sewing sections on the 3rd and 6th floors. Most of the female workers complained about harassment from two Line Chiefs, and unfair targets set for female workers compared to male workers. They have already addressed the targets issue to the Production Manager but have yet to observe improvements.
The factory warned the 3rd floor Line Chiefs, who agreed - verbally and in writing - that, in the future, they will not abuse any workers. Management shared the acknowledgement letter.
5. Takko auditors have gone through factory's grievance mechanism records, where all harassment complaints were found. Some complaints were addressed by the assistant general manager through obtaining a confession and subsequent statement in which the accused person promises to refrain from such actions. Some complaints were not addressed adequately when compared to the seriousness of the issue. However, most complaints were not addressed at all.
6. The management stated that they have already started to conduct awareness classes for mid-level management staff. Up to date, they have proved 12 classes, each attended by 40 to 50 staff. The assistant general manager is teaching these awareness classes. Takko auditors looked into the records of these classes. According to the management, the awareness classes for mid-level management staff will continue on a monthly basis. Furthermore, management assured the auditors they will always maintain a zero tolerance policy regarding gender-based harassment.
FWF followed with the factory management and concluded the following:
1. The complainant resigned from the factory willingly due to a family problem. She received her due payment of BDT 69,039 for Service Benefit and Earn Leave encashment from the factory. FWF cross-checked with the complainant who confirmed that she received it as per law.
2. FWF noted that awareness training are being held. It was agreed that FWF will observe one or two trainings to make certain that the training content is in line with the high court decision. It was also agreed that the AHC members will be present during the trainings.
2. The Line Chiefs from building 3 were called to the AHC by the Assistant General Manager, who is in charge of compliance. They acknowledged their wrongful behaviour, bullying, shouting and usage of inappropriate language, and apologised to the management. They committed to never behaving like it again. Management and AHC indicated that they will monitor this carefully.
3. FWF visited the 3rd floor (without prior notice) and observed the perpetrators and they were found calm and well-behaved. FWF cross-checked with the AHC member and some 3rd floor workers and were informed that the perpetrators were trying to improve. As a result, the problems are reducing.
4. After checking the AHC registrar, FWF found around 10 complaints regarding harassment. Most of the complainants were handled by Mr. Sohel but unfortunately there were no involvement of AHC members. FWF recommended that the factory management involve the AHC in the handling of any future complaints.