FWF’s Workplace Education Programme (WEP) aims to help workers develop the skills and confidence to speak up and discuss wage conditions in their place of work. One of the key principles underpinning the work carried out by FWF is the notion that the best wage is a negotiated wage. FWF member brands work toward ensuring that their suppliers pay workers living wages to enable them to enjoy decent living standards. To see this change, workers and their representatives must be involved in this process to make it sustainable.
To promote a work environment conducive to social dialogue and workers’ involvement in resolving wage and factory floor issues, FWF has developed the Workplace Education Programme (WEP). Training sessions are conducted separately for workers and members of the factory management. The focus of these trainings is aimed at raising awareness of labour rights, grievance mechanisms, and on improving participants’ negotiation skills. At least 10% of production workers in factories supplying FWF member brands must be enrolled in these programmes to fulfil Brand Performance Check requirements.
In India and Bangladesh where sexual harassment of female workers is a common occurrence, FWF has developed special training modules to combat gender-based violence. Evidence has found that female workers are empowered by these training sessions. Thanks to WEP, management officials and supervisors have become more aware of harassment issues. Overall, trainings contribute to a climate that makes it easier for workers to express their grievances, and managers are now better equipped to listen and address problems.
In a recent submission to the 2018 ILO Conference on ‘Violence and Harassment against Women and Men in the Global Garment Supply Chain’, FWF presented findings from a growing body of evidence that connects low wages and violence. In a presentation at the conference, FWF stressed that ‘a living wage is one step toward ensuring that women can live and work in decent conditions and have the ability to protect themselves and their families from harassment, violence and sexual assault.’ Paying a living wage may not end discrimination but when women feel economically more secure, they are more likely to assert their rights and be less vulnerable to harassment.
FWF’s WEP has been shown to help workers not only develop the skills but the confidence to speak up and discuss wage conditions. As one FWF report states, ‘living wages can contribute to lessening workers’ vulnerability and encourage worker retention and skill acquisition’. A happier, better paid workforce also reduces employee turnover and boosts productivity in the factory.