The Guardian underscores high risk of problems in Bangladeshi garment factories

date: 01/03/2019

On Friday, The Guardian published an article about garment workers who claim they were fired after striking about their low wages at a Bangladeshi garment factory where FWF brand Stanley/Stella sources. In high-risk countries like Bangladesh, serious problems will inevitably be found in most supply chains. When issues arise, FWF requires that its member brands address these problems head-on.

The Guardian describes a case in which over 100 workers were fired in January after going on strike over low wages. The brand that was portrayed in this article, Stanley/Stella, is very active in improving the working conditions for people who make our clothes. Just like any other FWF member, they continue sourcing from Bangladesh because they believe they can make a positive contribution to the lives of the workers there.

No cut-and-run
Unlike most other garment brands, FWF brands do not walk away when problems occur. At the core of FWF membership is the idea that brands should try to tackle human rights violations together with the factory. Leaving a factory when problems are found does nothing to improve the situation of workers. Terminating a business relationship with a factory can be harmful to workers because it leaves room for the problems to continue unaddressed.

Both FWF and the factory are investigating this case after hearing about it. FWF met with the factory and Stanley/Stella. There were some discrepancies between what FWF heard from the factory management and the complainants’ stories and their personal files.  Of course, as always, FWF will publish the complaint when all facts are clear. What can be shared is that the factory is in the process of paying legal entitlements, such as due salaries, provident fund and severance pay to all the workers concerned. FWF and Stanley/Stella will keep a close eye on this progress.

It’s very unusual for garment brands to be transparent about complaints, if they work with a complaints system at all. It takes courage for brands to put their activities out under the public eye, and Stanley/Stella has been making great efforts to help improve the working conditions in this specific factory.

Everyone on board
Unlike what the article in The Guardian suggests, FWF does not certify brands or factories. That’s not realistic at this stage. FWF brands are investing in trying to make a concrete, lasting difference in the lives of garment workers. They act and achieve results. Even brands like Stanley/ Stella that are very active in reducing risks in their supply chain and are highly rated in their last Brand Performance Check, cannot guarantee that their supply chain is 100% fair. They cannot resolve the issues on their own. We need all brands on board.

And not just the brands either, but everyone else. The garment industry is complex, global, fragmented and rarely transparent. In most cases, you can only do so much before it comes down to a need for systemic change in the industry. Therefore we also need governments, NGOs, factories, garment workers, trade unions, and consumers to contribute their strengths.

Voice complaints
Stanley/Stella is keeping a close watch on the situation in the factory. In the past year, they have been working with FWF to implement an anti-harassment committee there, which gives workers an opportunity to voice their complaints and resolve issues internally.
At FWF, we strongly believe that garment companies must assume responsibility and work together with factories on improving conditions. This is an essential step towards lasting change and fairer conditions for the people who make our clothes.


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country: bangladesh
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Companies learn more about labour condition risks in Turkey and responsible sourcing

date: 14/03/2019
Turkey

Today Fair Wear Foundation in cooperation with the Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile hosted a learning seminar ‘Sourcing responsibly in Turkey. How to due diligence?’ for garment brands sourcing from Turkey. More than 70 participants from brands learned about specific risks in the garment industry in Turkey. During this seminar, brands learned from experts and experienced brands about how to do their due diligence in this country.

Doing business in Turkey
The purpose of this seminar was to help companies gain more insights into risks in Turkey and to include these insights into their own purchasing practices and sourcing dialogue. Issues addressed were, for example, risks concerning freedom of association, Syrian refugees, wages and subcontracting.

Turkey is an important sourcing country for Dutch garments and textile companies. 61% of all signatories to the Dutch agreement source from Turkey in 561 production locations. After China, Turkey has the second largest number of production sites in a specific country on the production location list of all agreement signatories together.

Learn from experts
FWF’s country representatives for Turkey contributed to the programme as well as experts from Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), Fair Labor Association (FLA) and brands. Round table sessions and workshops on due diligence risks helped companies to implement the knowledge into practice. Best practices on living wages were shared by FWF brand Mini Rodini and their supplier as well as a ‘brand panel’ consisting of Esprit, Adidas and C&A.

An important piece of this programme focused on the brands’ own responsibility through sustainable purchasing practices and sourcing dialogue. The agreement of the signatory brands is mandatory from them to do their due diligence, and are expected to turn their new insights of Turkey into concrete goals and actions for improvement in their action plan.

More companies
More than 27 representatives participated in the seminar. Among them were FWF brands, signatories of the AGT, the German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles as well as ETI and FLA member brands. This seminar and its goals has shown a growing awareness and intent to do due diligence in Turkey.

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country: turkey
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‘Let’s give a voice to the women who make our clothes’

date: 07/03/2019

‘We need to support women workers in garment factories to raise their voices, so the industry can detect and tackle harassment’, says our associate director Margreet Vrieling on the eve of International Women’s Day.

More and more consumers are becoming aware of unfair working conditions in the fashion industry, like child labour and low wages. But there are other, less-known negative working practices that have become normalised, such as gender-based harassment and violence in garment factories. ‘Harassment and discrimination can be hard to spot on the factory floor’, shares Margreet. ‘But that doesn’t mean they don’t occur. We need to become more aware of this and address it as proactively as possible.’

Vulnerable
Sexual harassment and violence against women are widespread problems in the garment industry, where women make up about 80 percent of the workforce. In many garment factories, production pressure is high, and yelling—often sexually explicit—is common practice. Women garment workers are often young, poor and living in a society dominated by strong gender hierarchies.  A disturbingly high percentage of garment workers report verbal and physical abuse as well as sexual harassment, including assault and rape.

Preventing and solving cases of harassment in garment factories requires a joint approach. Vrieling: ‘Factory managers, garment brands and NGOs such as ours all need to take responsibility to ensure that workplaces are free from harassment. Brands need to know that this is happening and act on it; our auditors need to be able to spot it; everyone who buys clothes should be aware of it.’

Gender stereotypes
For sustainable solutions, women workers need to be supported in voicing their complaints. ‘Women need to feel safe enough to talk about harassment and feel supported by factory management’, explains Vrieling. ‘By lending our voices and platforms to their fight, these workers can speak out against the injustices they face every day. Brands and factories must be held accountable for responding to these injustices.’

As a way of addressing gender-based violence, FWF and its member brands have established anti-harassment committees in factories in Bangladesh and India. Workers in these factories are slowly starting to speak out and work towards solutions. Also in India, FWF ran a supervisor training programme. By training women workers to become supervisors, the programme aimed to reduce economic discrimination and change gender stereotypes. Male supervisors were trained to become more aware of gender matters and violence-free conflict solving methods.

8 March celebration
On 8 March, FWF together with Dutch garment brands, the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garment and Textiles, Plan Nederland, and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs will celebrate International Women’s Day in The Hague. Dutch designer Monique Collignon, UN Youth Ambassador Hajar Yagkoubi and SER representative Jef Wintermans will speak during the event.

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We’re hiring in our Impact Team!

date: 14/02/2019

We’re searching for a Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (PMEL) Coordinator to join FWF’s Impact Team.

Our current PMEL Coordinator has taken on a new role within the organsation and therefore we are looking for a new colleague for our Impact Team as the Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Coordinator for 32-36 hours per week.

FWF’s Impact Team focuses on developing innovative and impactful ways to improve labour conditions for garment workers. The team is mainly responsible for creating and testing approaches, spearheading and coordinating the collection of evidence and knowledge; developing the strategy and policy for topics that cut across the organisation and relate to the outside world; and tracking whether FWF is achieving its objectives.

In addition to contributing to the team’s overall strategy, the PMEL Coordinator would divide his or her time between the following activities:

  • Coordinating the implementation of FWF’s ‘Theory of Change’ and the PMEL plan
  • Coordinating PMEL for FWF with the organisation’s goals in mind; monitoring and evaluating progress to advise on FWF’s strategy and provide tools for organisational learning
  • Working with project managers and content specialists to identify their PMEL needs and coordinating PMEL plans for projects
  • Coordinating the collection of PMEL data and reporting on this in line with donor requirements
  • Providing support for new funding proposals on PMEL
  • Coordinating the PMEL activities within FWF’s strategic partnership and other FWF projects
  • Ensuring a good link between information management and evidence collection
  • Facilitating training on PMEL for FWF staff in the Netherlands and in production countries
  • Supervising external consultants when necessary
  • Supervising MEL activities in garment-producing countries and providing capacity-building support where appropriate

We are looking for someone with the following skills and qualifications:

  • Graduate degree in information sciences, social sciences or related field, or equivalent through work experience
  • At least eight years’ experience with PMEL, of which at least three in large, complex international programmes
  • Experience with development of PMEL tools and systems, capacity building, learning agenda
  • Experience with coordinating and/or implementing qualitative and quantitative MEL approaches
  • Experience with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs funding or similar is desirable
  • Experience with a Theory of Change methodology is highly desirable
  • Excellent written and spoken English, culturally sensitive, and analytical

Please visit www.fairwear.org for more information about our organisation. For more details about the position, you can call Arja Schreij or Hector Chavez at the following number: +31-20-4084255. We offer a salary in accordance with the Dutch government remuneration system (BBRA) scale: scale 11 (€ 3.130,07 – 4.809,66), depending on relevant experience.

If you are interest in this vacancy, please send your CV with cover letter to vacancy@fairwear.org no later than 4 March 2019. We will interview candidates on 14 and 15 March.

Recruitment agencies are asked to refrain from approaching Fair Wear Foundation about this or any other vacancy.

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Over 1,000 women workers interviewed for research on gender-based violence in Vietnam

date: 08/02/2019

Over the past few months, FWF and Care International interviewed more then 1,000 women garment workers as part of their research on gender-based violence.

In 2018, FWF set out to gather data on the factors that lead to incidences of gender-based violence in garment factories. The research project is being conducted in partnership with CARE International and is titled ‘I am a garment worker: Survey on women’s safety and well-being in the garment sector’.

Research training
The project started with a training session in Hanoi, Vietnam. For two days, twenty participants from FWF and other NGOs learned about gender-based violence in garment factories, and also participated in skills training on participatory research.

The project started with a training session in Hanoi, Vietnam. For two days, twenty participants from FWF and other NGOs learned about gender-based violence in garment factories, and also participated in skills training on participatory research.

Last month, stakeholders in Vietnam, including representatives from the trade unions, the local business association, and the labour ministry, gathered together to discuss the results and provide recommendations on moving forward.

Production pressure
I Am A Garment Worker appears to provide insight into the link between gender-based violence and increasing production pressure, as well as unplanned overtime. Such findings can offer brands and factories tangible steps to change behaviour and reduce violence and harassment in the workplace.

Stay tuned for the results of this participatory research. The full report will be launched in April. For more about our efforts to reduce gender-based violence, see our gender portal.


 

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country: vietnam
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Come join our team: two new communication vacancies!

date: 04/02/2019

We’re looking for a digital expert and a communication planner & event coordinator to join FWF’s External Relations & Communication Team (ER&C).

The Digital Communication Expert plays a significant role in the team, supporting the communication of FWF’s key messages through its external website and social media channels.

The Communication Planner & Event Coordinator is a new position in the team combines project planning and project management responsibilities with coordination of FWF-driven events in Europe and beyond. As event coordinator, you will plan and execute events from conceptualisation through to execution and follow-up. You will play a key role in the marketing communication strategy by bringing creative ideas to life. Depending on organisational priorities, both roles should ideally take an equal amount of time and attention.

Here you can find the full job description of Digital Communications Expert and the Communication Planner & Event Coordinator.

If you have at least 3-5 years of relevant work experience in one of the positions, we’d like to hear from you! Please send your C.V. and motivational letter to vacancy@fairwear.org, to the attention of Alexander Kohnstamm, Executive Director, before 25 February 2019. If you are interested in both vacancies, apply for the positions separately with two cover letters.

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FWF urges brands to support factories Bangladesh after garment workers go on strike

date: 17/01/2019

Thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh have violently clashed with police over low wages. The protests focus on the level of the new minimum wage. FWF urges its brands to contact and support their suppliers in Bangladesh.

The new minimum wage is much lower than what garment workers in Bangladesh demanded. Also, the protests focus on what many consider to be discriminatory elements of the new wage law. The basic wages for the higher pay grades did not increase proportionally to those of the lowest grade (grade 7).

Negotiations
In response to this, and after eight days of labour unrest, on 13 January 2019 the government announced a revised pay structure for the garment sector, with a slight increase in both basic and gross wages in six of the seven grades. This outcome is a result of negotiations in a tripartite committee, which included representation of workers, owners and government. Union representatives indicated that they welcome the revision and urged workers to return to work, amid fears of arrest and termination of jobs.

Fair Wear Foundation believes it’s important that FWF member brands sourcing in Bangladesh contact their suppliers to express concern. ‘They need to ascertain what the situation in the factory is’, says FWF’s country manager for Bangladesh, Koen Oosterom, ‘and urge factory managers to take the necessary action to avoid escalation of worker unrest. This unrest could arise, for example, by delaying payment of wages as per the new minimum wage law, by degrading workers to lower grade levels, making deductions on non-statutory wage elements such as bonuses, withholding or delaying overtime remuneration, or increasing targets to avoid paying productivity bonuses.’

Adjusting prices
With the higher cost of labour comes the responsibility for brands to revisit their pricing levels. That is why FWF has asked its brands to reassure factory management that they will assume their own responsibility for the higher minimum wage. Koen Oosterom: ‘They need to motivate the factory management to implement the new minimum wage structure by assuring them that they will adjust prices accordingly and timely as required. ‘

Using the FWF Labour Minute Calculator, brands and factories can identify the increase in the manufacturing price of garments required to cover the higher costs of labour due to the minimum wage rise. This calculator, which is adjusted to reflect the 13 January 2019 adjustments, enables suppliers and buyers to determine the cost of one minute of labour in a factory and makes components such as bonuses and insurance visible.

Why is this so important for the people of Bangladesh? The garment export industry is the biggest earner for Bangladesh, accounting for 81% of total export earnings. It is estimated that over 7,000 factories are linked to the export market. You can read more about the garment industry in Bangladesh here.

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Happy Holidays!

date: 21/12/2018

The FWF team would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

With Christmas and New Year’s eve on the way, FWF will have limited office opening hours:
– On Monday 24 December, Tuesday 25 December and Wednesday 26 December the office will be closed.
– On Thursday 27 December and Friday 28 December the office is open.
– Monday 31 December and Tuesday 1 January 2019 the office is closed.
– From 2 January 2019 everything will be back to normal.

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We’re hiring!

date: 11/12/2018

We are currently looking for a Financial Controller to join our Support Team, which renders finance, personnel administration, HRM, office management and IT services. 

The Controller will be responsible for:

  • Project control and administration, including budgeting, reporting, auditing and liquidity planning.
  • Preparing the organisational budget and annual accounts, together with the Head of Finance.
  • Assisting teams with their budgeting, preparing budget and expenditure overviews for the teams and discussing those with the team representatives.
  • Managing the correctness and completeness of the financial administration including the validation of invoices.
  • Checking the hour registration and maintaining the hour registration system.
  • The VAT administration.
  • Actively contributing to further development and improvement of the financial systems at FWF.

We are looking for a new colleague with the following qualifications and skills:

  • Minimum bachelors degree in financial administration.
  • At least 5 years experience in financial project control and reporting within the non-profit sector.
  • Good working knowledge of AFAS and Excel; knowledge of setting up administrations in AFAS is an advantage.
  • Good communication skills in Dutch and English.
  • Strong, flexible, team player with the ability to manage challenging tasks independently, and able to cope with deadlines.
  • Enthusiastic, respectful, culturally sensitive and sound work ethics.

We offer:

  • A challenging job with a wide variety of responsibilities in an international, dynamic, self-organising environment.
  • A one-year contract (possibility to extend, contingent on funding).
  • Workplace at the World Fashion Centre in Amsterdam

Please visit www.fairwear.org for more information about our organisation. For more information about the position, you can call Maureen Brouwer or Susanne van den Berg (+31-20-4084255).

We offer a salary in accordance with the Dutch government remuneration system (BBRA) scale 11 (€ 3130 – € 4809), depending on relevant experience.

If you are interested in this vacancy, please send your CV with cover letter to vacancy@fairwear.org no later than 10 February 2019. Suitable candidates might be invited for an interview before the deadline.

Recruitment agencies are asked to refrain from approaching Fair Wear Foundation about this or any other vacancy.

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New findings on reducing violence in the workplace

date: 11/12/2018

In the new report titled ‘Climbing the Ladder: Supervisory Skill Building Programme’, three-years of data collection has concluded that supervisory skills trainings are a successful way to reduce violence and harassment in the workplace over time.

As a main finding, training female and male supervisors in garment factories led to a reduction in violence and harassment as found in the participating factories. Female workers reported not only being better able to stand up for their rights, but also improved job satisfaction and factory functioning due to the improved morale on the work floor.

Specifically in India, 60-70% of garment workers are still women. Men inhabit almost all supervisory roles. In an effort to address this inequality, the FWF Supervisory Skills Training was given in 18 garment factories in South India during 2014 to 2017. Women were given an educational opportunity to gain confidence and move into supervisory roles. All participants, men and women alike, were educated to identify situations of violence and harassment in their workplaces.

 To read more about the significant results of this training programme, see our report here.

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