World Day Against Child Labour: Stories from Myanmar

date: 12/06/2018

On this #WorldDayAgainstChildLabour, we share stories of child workers in garment factories.

Child labour is a global problem. An estimated 218 million children around the world (aged 5-17) work, 70% of whom are considered victims of child labour. Life in a garment factory is difficult, but particularly so for children. Like other garment workers, they face long working days; 60-70 hours per week is standard. The work is physically demanding and also mentally harmful. The following stories are taken from taken from an upcoming FWF report on child labour in Myanmar. Please note that all names have been changed for privacy reasons.

Sadiya: Forced to work after her father’s injury

Poverty is one of the main factors that push children into work. Sadiya started working after her father broke both his arms in a work-related accident. Due to the financial strain on the family, she was forced to quit school, and found a job in a garment factory.

The job was difficult. She explains, ‘In times of high demand, the workers have to work all night’ with a one-hour break for a nap on the concrete floor at dawn, after which they continued to work the whole next day. The family’s financial situation left her feeling that she was unable to miss work, even when she was ill or exhausted.

After Sadiya and other child labourers were discovered, FWF, the member brand, and local NGOs, put a remediation plan in action to offer support, compensation, and the opportunity to return to school or pursue vocational training.

Kyi: Forced to work after her family lost their home

When severe flooding and river bank erosion claimed one family’s property, Kyi reflected on how they were forced to move to a house in a squatter area. ‘My family sold everything we owned, including a flock of ducks that we bred, and moved to [this village]. We had no more farmland or other property, but debts. That’s why my brother and I had to search for a job.’ A few days after the move, Kyi found work at a local garment factory. She was only thirteen.

After FWF representatives met her, with the support of FWF and the member brand sourcing from the factory, she was removed from the factory, given compensation and the opportunity to take a tailoring course at a local training centre. Kyi shared that she hopes to further her skills in the future and set up her own tailoring business after she turns sixteen.

 

Maya: Working without rest for 10 hours per day

Maya comes from a poor fishing community in Bago Region, Myanmar. She quit school at the age of 12 when her parents could no longer afford to pay her school fees. She then went to work in a factory in Yangon.

Maya says that she initially felt very out of place at the factory and was so afraid that she did not dare speak or look at the other workers. She was assigned to feed shirt buttons into tiny holes in fabric, a task that required her to stand without rest for 10 hours each day. ‘My fingertips became swollen and painful, but I had to work standing constantly without even having a few minutes to sit and rest. My legs are also becoming stiff and painful.’

When FWF found out that Maya was working in the factory, FWF and the member brand sourcing from the factory arranged for her to stop working and for her to receive monthly compensation until  her 16th birthday, including a guarantee to rehire her if she should wish to return when she reached the legal age for working.

 

What happens when child labour is discovered?

When a child labourer is found in a factory, FWF takes the necessary action to investigate, including a home visit to ascertain whether the child wants to go back to school or pursue some form of vocational training. Child labourers are denied their dignity and their childhood, but also their potential to dream. FWF, and its member brands, are committed to protecting the rights of children and addressing child labour in garment factories.

To better understand the experiences of child labourers, FWF will be issuing a report based on the experiences of children identified at garment factories in Myanmar in the coming weeks.

Take a look at our work in Myanmar and our Code of Labour Practices which includes no exploitation of child labour.

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FWF researches impact of recent minimum wage rise in Myanmar

date: 07/06/2018

FWF has started a research project on living wages in Myanmar. In March, the legal minimum wage in Myanmar increased from Kyat 3,600 to 4,800 per day. FWF and Mondiaal FNV want to determine the impact of this increase on workers and businesses.

Increased minimum wage, who pays?
FWF argues that the responsibility is with buyers to meet the additional cost following the recent statutory minimum wage increase, particularly when the very limited impact on retail prices is considered. Here’s the logic:

As the National Minimum Wage increases, the labour minute cost of manufacturers goes up accordingly. Isolating the labour component in the labour minute cost should enable manufacturers to identify the new overall minute price which they quote to buyers. This new labour minute price would then be multiplied by the given standard allowed minutes on any garment style, taking efficiency into account, to arrive at the manufacturing cost of the garment.

Research mission in Myanmar
FWF’s country manager Koen Oosterom undertook a research mission to Myanmar in May. Joining him were two FWF experts, Mr. Doug Miller and Mr. Klaus Hohenegger, both of whom have been working with FWF on living wages for several years.

The team visited and held discussions with the management of three factories. The aim was to collect information on the cost breakdown and increase in labour minute costs caused by the minimum wage rise, and following that, the increase in CMT/FOB prices of garment items produced in Myanmar.

Stakeholders and suppliers
During the visit the team also conducted consultations with relevant stakeholders, including ILO, MGMA and CARE. A training for unions and labour NGOs on labour minute costing was arranged together with FNV and Apheda. Participants were very interested, especially as this was the first time they learned about this topic.

Finally, FWF held a combined stakeholders/supplier seminar in Myanmar. Participants included representatives from relevant stakeholders, factories and brands. The focus of the seminar was on social dialogue, gender-based violence and wages. Mr. Wouter Jurgens, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, opened the seminar.

Initial reactions in Myanmar
Myanmar’s minimum wage remains the lowest in Southeast Asia. Opposition to the new minimum wage has come from both employers and workers. Workers do not believe it is enough to sustain themselves and their families. Employers warn that it could cause small- and medium-sized industries, which comprise the bulk of businesses in Myanmar, to close.

Results from this research are expected in later this year. In the meantime, find out more about FWF’s work in Myanmar here.

This research project is conducted as one of the activities under the Strategic Partnership for Supply Chain Transformation, a five-year effort led by Fair Wear Foundation, Dutch trade unions Mondiaal FNV and CNV Internationaal and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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Child Labourers and the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression

date: 04/06/2018
International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression

Today, 4 June, marks the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression. No child should be forced to work, yet child labour is all too prevalent in the garment industry. This situation is often exacerbated by war and conflict.

The Syrian war has had a significant impact on children with many ending up in neighbouring Turkey. Of the 3.5 million Syrian refugees registered in Turkey, around 1.1 million are school-aged children. Child victims of war are often forced to work to support their families. Despite efforts of the Turkish government and the international community in providing substantial aid, stakeholders in Turkey have reported a sharp increase in child labour since the arrival of Syrian refugees.

One of Fair Wear Foundation’s labour standards is no exploitation of child labour. When child labour is found in a garment factory from which a FWF member brand sources, FWF together with the brand takes the steps needed to assist child labourers. It is important that the brands continue to work with the factory and not pull their business away. This reaction could have disastrous effects on the factory and the children. Together, the brand and FWF ensure that the child returns to school and that the family receives financial compensation for lost wages.

Additionally, FWF works with its Turkish stakeholders to address issues faced by Syrian refugee workers in the garment industry. FWF informs its brands and suppliers on specific risks and offers guidance by holding webinars and roundtables to further their understanding on procedures such as accessing work permits. FWF also provides a local complaints helpline in Arabic for workers with concerns and those wishing to report violations.

For more information, see FWF’s Guidance for Members: Risks related to Turkish garment factories employing Syrian refugees and the FWF child labour policy. Stay tuned for an upcoming detailed report about the labour situation of Syrian refugees in Turkey.

 

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ILO CONFERENCE 2018: FWF SUBMITS PAPER ON TACKLING HARASSMENT

date: 01/06/2018

The first week of the ILO’s 107th International Labour Conference has almost come to an end. For this year’s edition, FWF has submitted a publication on violence and harassment.

This year’s International Labour Conference has a specific focus on violence and harassment against women and men in the world of work. In Geneva, international organisations, trade unions, and other labour representatives are calling for a global standard to end violence and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Tackling violence and harassment
FWF submitted a publication to the ILO titled Violence and harassment against women and men in the global garment supply chain. According to FWF’s survey of 658 women in 35 Indian and Bangladeshi factories, 75 per cent said that regular verbal abuse occurred in their factory, most of which was sexually explicit. The submission focuses on the benefits of tackling violence and harassment, particularly for businesses and proposes seven measures that companies can take to eliminate it in their supply chains.

FWF has a bold commitment to work with all relevant stakeholders to end violence against women and men in the garment sector and has implemented innovative violence-prevention programmes in garment-producing countries around the world. Preventing violence and harassment in the world of work is one of the main goals of Strategic Partnership of FWF together with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and trade unions CNV and FNV.

Producing results
The ILO conference commenced this week with ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder calling on all the delegates of #ILC2018 to ‘join in making sure that we produce results which really make a difference and open the way for guarantees of workplaces entirely free of violence and harassment.’ The conference will continue until 8 June.

To learn more about the Committee on violence and harassment in the world of work see this video from the ILO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLfyZ6IIv-8

 

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FWF and Stanley/Stella tackling gender-based violence

date: 28/05/2018

Last week, Fair Wear Foundation together with brand Stanley/Stella participated in a panel discussion on gender in the development, government and the private sector at the Conferentie Internationale Samenwerking in the Hague, the Netherlands.

During the bi-annual conference, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs brought together Dutch diplomats working in development, with representatives from civil society and business to discuss new trends and insights. Sexual harassment was one of the important topics this year, focusing on the role of the ministry and the development sector, but also highlighting partner organisations like Fair Wear Foundation.

‘Our member brands want to be able to rely on a public sector in production countries that promotes responsible business practices rather than rewarding the slackers through a lack of legislation and/or implementation. The Strategic Partnership with the Ministry and CNV and FNV gives us the opportunity to invest in the lobby, advocacy and capacity building that’s needed to improve the regulatory environment in production countries.’ Alexander Kohnstamm – Executive Director, Fair Wear Foundation

FWF brand Stanley/Stella gave interesting insights into the role of the private sector in addressing gender-based violence and harassment in the workplace. Stanley/Stella is leading the way in demonstrating the important role of brands in creating a safe working environment within their supply chain. Together with FWF they are tackling gender-based violence in the workplace through best practices such as developing workplace harassment committees and training both workers and management to identify and address issues of sexual harassment and violence. View our short video to find out how Stanley/Stella is fighting back against gender-based violence in Bangladesh.

‘Gender based violence is—unfortunately—everywhere. In Asia, in Europe, in Bangladesh, in Belgium, in The Netherlands… Either you close your eyes to it, or you start acting. Anti-Harassment committees and the Fair Wear Foundation Workplace Education Programme on gender-based violence are concrete initiatives taken by the Stanley/Stella local team in Dhaka to empower women and give them a voice.’  Geert de Wael – Stanley/Stella

Gender equality and violence prevention is central to Fair Wear Foundation’s work, and is one of the three strategic pillars of the Strategic Partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Dutch trade unions CNV and FNV. To read more about the FWF violence and harassment prevention programme read our report: ‘Breaking the Silence: The FWF Violence and Harassment Prevention Programme’.

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Fair Wear Foundation welcomes ECG!

date: 24/05/2018

FWF is very happy to welcome The European Clothing Group (ECG) as a new member company. ECG contains eight fashion brands, selling both women’s and men’s wear in a range of looks and styles.

Alexander Talpe, director of the ECG European Clothing Group, and FWF Director Alexander Kohnstamm signed the FWF Code of Labour Practices on Thursday in Poperinge, Belgium. ‘We’re very happy to welcome ECG as a new member today’, said Alexander Kohnstamm. ‘The brand is clearly serious about improving labour conditions in their supply chain, a vision that is shared within the whole company.’

‘It has been a wish to join FWF for a couple of years’, said Alexander Talpe. ‘We believe we as ECG need to take responsibility, not only towards our customers and own employees, but also towards the people who make our products, the environment and the communities in which we operate.’

ECG designs and produces different brands for e5 mode, a Belgian fashion retailer. The ECG group sells its garments in Belgium, The Netherlands, Slovenia and Croatia.

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Suistudio joins Fair Wear Foundation

date: 24/05/2018

Fair Wear Foundation welcomes Suistudio as its newest member. Suistudio launched in fall 2017 and is the sister brand to Suitsupply, one of FWF’s leader brands.

The women’s clothing brand has a flagship store in Amsterdam and shops in Shanghai and New York. Suistudio mainly sells women suits, but also jumpsuits, dresses and T-shirts.

Commitment
‘Suistudio is the first FWF brand with such a big selection of women’s suits’, says FWF Associate Director Margreet Vrieling. ‘We hope that they will make similar improvements to Suitsupply.’

Suistudio is excited to become a FWF member. ‘By joining Fair Wear Foundation, we are demonstrating our commitment to the continuous improvement and oversight that is crucial to driving meaningful social change’, says Roos Fleuren, chief product officer of Suitsupply and Suistudio.

The first Brand Performance Check for Suistudio will take place following the company’s initial year of membership, and will be published on the Suistudio page.

 

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New vacancy: MEL Officer

date: 17/05/2018

Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) is looking for a Monitoring, Evaluation & Learning Officer to join its Impact Team.

As part of the role the MEL Officer will set up and coordinate monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) for the organisation and a variety of projects and programmes implemented by FWF and partner organisations. If you have at least 8 years’ experience with MEL for large, complex, international programmes and are interested in working in a challenging role within an international, dynamic, self-organising environment, FWF would like to hear from you.

See the full job description here.

To apply please send your C.V. and motivational letter to vacancy@fairwear.org, for the attention of Alexander Kohnstamm, Executive Director, before 8 June 2018. The first round of interviews will be held in the second half of June.

 

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Social dialogue to support decent working conditions in Romania

date: 09/05/2018

We recently facilitated a seminar in Romania, bringing together suppliers, stakeholders and researchers to showcase examples of doing business while supporting decent working conditions.

Romanian garment factories, a local union and stakeholder initiatives were present to discuss and share best practices.

Syndex, a consultancy organisation for employee representatives and trade unions in Europe, provided insights into their research project on living wages and how they a calculated a living wage benchmark for a specific factory.

The Research Institute for Quality of Life (ICCV) explained how they calculate the basic needs basket (the set of goods and services essential for a person or a family to meet their basic needs) for the Romanian context.

And a trade union member shared the benefits of having a trade union active in their factory.

After sharing the detailed practices, there was time to discuss the most common issues in the garment industry in Romania and together the participants drafted a number of solutions and the roles the different actors could play in working towards these solutions.

The intimate setting encouraged dialogue, interaction and a great level of knowledge exchange among stakeholders. As such, the participants committed to continue sharing best practices and increasing collaboration between Syndex and suppliers to conduct more living wage studies in other factories.

Curious to know more about working conditions in Romania? Check out our country guide.

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New vacancy: Personnel and Salary Administrator

date: 02/05/2018

We’re searching for a Personnel and Salary Administrator to join our Support Team.

We’re looking for someone who will be responsible for personnel and salary administration, in addition to some bookkeeping and office management tasks, and supporting other teams in the office. If you have at least 3 years relevant professional experience in personnel administration, a profound knowledge of AFAS and good communication skills in English and Dutch (German is also a plus), then we’d like to hear from you!

To apply for this role, please  send your CV with cover letter to vacancy@fairwear.org no later than 18 May 2018.

View the full job description here.

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