First international field trip for new FWF director

date: 17/04/2018

FWF’s new director Alexander Kohnstamm just returned from his first FWF trip in Asia. Alexander visited Bangladesh and India, two of FWF’s most important garment production countries.

Alexander’s first stop was Dhaka, Bangladesh. The purpose of this mission, which took place from 31 March to 4 April, was to meet relevant stakeholders and partner organisations and get a sense of the labour conditions in the garment sector, both formal and informal.

Breaking the silence
The mission was conducted jointly with Catelene Passchier, vice-chair of the governing body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Catelene and Alexander presented the Dutch Ambassador in Bangladesh with Breaking the Silence, a new FWF publication on the violence and harassment prevention programme in Bangladesh and India.

During the trip, Alexander joined an audit and met members of a factory’s anti-harassment committee. He also visited stakeholders including the ILO, IndustriALL, the Ministry of Labour and Employment and the Bangladesh Accord. The meetings generated interesting discussions on the new legal minimum wage level, pricing policies of brands and the threshold for union registration.

Unions
Alexander continued on to India, visiting stakeholders and factories and gaining a good first impression of the FWF work in the region. ‘Fair Wear brands and the factories they work with, have made good progress’, he said. ‘At the same time, there is room for improvement, for example in making sure that workers have access to free labour unions and receive a living wage.’

Find out more about our work in India and Bangladesh.

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country: bangladesh
Labour standards:

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FWF urges Cambodian government to take action on labour rights

date: 22/03/2018

Fair Wear Foundation has joined other influential organisations in signing a letter urging the Cambodian government to take immediate action to promote labour rights.

The letter reinforces the organisations’ worries about recent developments in the country, which have weakened human rights protection and undermined progress towards improved worker rights.

Big international brands
The other signatories of the letter were Amfori, the Fair Labour Organization, the Ethical Trading Initiative, American Apparel and Footwear Association, and Social Accountability International. These organisations represent major international brands and retailers across Europe and the U.S., including more than 200 buyers who source Cambodian garments, footwear, and travel goods.

Some FWF members are sourcing from Cambodia, but FWF is not active in the country. CNV Internationaal, FWF’s partner in the Strategic Partnership for Garment Supply Chain Transformation, is. CNV has direct relations with local trade unions in Cambodia that have been faced with charges.

You can read a copy of the letter here.

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country: cambodia
Labour standards:

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FWF and Dutch Minister Kaag discuss labour conditions Vietnam

date: 19/03/2018

FWF’s Duong Thi Viet Anh met with the Dutch minister for foreign trade and development, Sigrid Kaag, during her recent visit to Vietnam. They discussed how FWF works to improve conditions in one of the world’s largest garment-sourcing countries.

Minister Kaag met with different local NGOs to discuss corporate social responsibility. FWF’s country representative in Vietnam, Duong Thi Viet Anh, was present to share information about FWF’s work in Vietnam and the responsibilities of international companies and Vietnamese suppliers to comply with human rights standards.

FWF believes that the Dutch government can play an important role in promoting the implementation of the EU-VN FTA agreement and also encouraging civil society organisations to participate.

Vietnam
In recent years, Vietnam has become a major player in the global textile industry, particularly for the outdoor, sports and shoes sector. With a workforce of more than 2 million in the textiles industry, textiles was Vietnam’s largest export sector in 2017.

FWF has a local audit team in Ho Chi Minh City with an additional worker interviewer and complaints handler in Hanoi. FWF works with the employers association VCCI, the Vietnam Ministry of Labour and a number of grassroots labour NGOs in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Hai Phuong.  FWF’s activities in Vietnam further focus on the implementation of the Workplace Education Programme, to raise awareness on labour rights and grievance mechanisms.

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country: vietnam
Labour standards:

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FWF celebrates International Women’s Day

date: 08/03/2018

Today FWF celebrates International Women’s Day, a global day to honour the achievements of women. This day also marks a call for increased gender parity.

Violence against women is one of the most widespread violations of human rights. A disturbingly high percentage of garment workers have reported experiencing some form of harassment or violence—ranging from verbal and physical abuse and sexual harassment, to forced labour, assault and rape.

HOW IS FWF CONTRIBUTING TO CHANGE?
The good news is that garment workers are beginning to speak up about these problems. For example, in Bangladesh, garment workers and factories have worked with FWF to set up anti-harassment committees, which can file grievances on behalf of garment workers who have experienced harassment.

This project could not be successful without FWF brands. They need to work very closely with their suppliers to establish such committees and make sure these function. In this new FWF Best Practice video, FWF brand Stanley/Stella takes us to a factory where workers handle cases of harassment in cooperation with factory management.

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FWF partners with ASN Bank on living wage implementation

date: 27/02/2018

FWF is happy to partner up with the Dutch ASN Bank. The two will cooperate to share and further develop living wage expertise.

FWF will cooperate with ASN in defining the role investors can play in promoting progress towards living wages and in developing a set of tools investors can use to better assess the performance of clothing brands.

Investors are a relatively new actor in the living wage debate but they can have a large impact on the behaviour of brands. FWF’s director Alexander Kohnstamm calls the partnership with ASN ‘an exciting first step into an important new arena for FWF’.

‘Financial institutions have an important role to play in making the garment industry more sustainable’, says Kohnstamm. ‘We look forward to entering a structural working relationship with the investment community.’

 

 

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New FWF Director Alexander Kohnstamm—Welcome!

date: 08/02/2018

FWF is very pleased to announce the name of its new executive director, Alexander Kohnstamm. Alexander has a lot experience working at NGOs and international businesses.

His most recent job was director of external affairs at PharmAccess Foundation, an organisation dedicated to connecting more people in Sub-Saharan Africa to better healthcare. Before that, he was the executive director of Partos—the Dutch platform for development organisations.

However, Alexander’s career did not start in the development sector: he first worked as a marketing manager at Sony Europe and the Mitsubishi Group. This experience will be beneficial when interacting with FWF members: European garment brands.

Common ground
The FWF team looks forward to working with Alexander. ‘I’m sure he will be an excellent representative of FWF,’ says Chair of the FWF Board, Anita Normark. ‘We chose Alexander because he is smart, engaged and enthusiastic. He has supply-chain experience, speaks fluent English and German, and is used to working with a wide range of stakeholders.’

Alexander is eager to start his new position. ‘In my experience, development goals can only be reached if key stakeholders find common ground and collaborate despite their inherent differences. Specifically, we need to work together on private solutions for social issues. I believe the members, stakeholders and professionals involved in FWF have uniquely positioned the foundation to lead the industry in improving supply chains.’

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Vietnamese supplier seminar on grievance mechanisms

date: 16/01/2018

In December, 63 Vietnamese factory managers and agents gathered in Ho Chi Minh City for what proved to be a successful FWF supplier seminar.

This seminar focused on grievance systems. FWF explained its complaints mechanism by presenting several complaints cases employees had filed. Two suppliers also presented their own internal grievance mechanisms.

Following the presentations, the participants discussed concrete ideas, tools and methods for implementing effective grievance mechanisms in their factories. They also talked about different channels for workers to express complaints and various ways to give feedback to workers.

The seminar took place within the framework of the Strategic Partnership for Garment Supply Chain Transformation.

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Welcome, new member brands!

date: 09/01/2018

We are happy to welcome Neue Masche and ThClothes to Fair Wear Foundation.

The German brand Neue Masche aims to create more transparency in its supply chain through FWF membership. They also joined FWF to gain access to FWF supplier and member training sessions. Neue Masche staff are looking forward to ‘networking with FWF members to share best practices and exchange ideas on how to improve transparency and working conditions’.

ThClothes is a promotional clothing brand from Portugal. The brand calls FWF membership a ‘necessary and obvious step’ in its commitment to improving working conditions. ‘In the promotional market, Fair Wear is a well-known name. It’s therefore essential to become a member.’

The first Brand Performance Checks for ThClothes and Neue Masche will occur after one year of membership, and will be published on the companies’ brand pages.

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New Best Practice video: the benefits of cooperation

date: 22/12/2017

We have put a new FWF Best Practice video online! In this video three FWF outdoor brands -competitors in retail- show how they effectively worked together in Myanmar.

When Salewa, Jack Wolfskin and Vaude started the project, FWF was not active in Myanmar yet, but that didn’t stop the brands from rolling up their sleeves. FWF’s Annual Conference was the perfect breeding ground for discussing the how and what of a joint project in Myanmar.

The brands established a training programme with local organisation SMART Myanmar. They used FWF training material and the complaints helpline structure.  Management and workers in three different factories were trained on grievance mechanisms and on how workers can proactively communicate with management.This video shows how collaboration among brands that are usually competitors, is possible and it works. Watch all FWF’s video’s on our YouTube channel.


 

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FWF members sign Indonesian FoA protocol

date: 21/12/2017

On Friday, FWF members Haglöfs, Kjus and SuitSupply signed the FoA Protocol in Jakarta. The protocol is a groundbreaking agreement between clothing brands, factories and trade unions to strengthen workers’ rights in Indonesia.

The FoA Protocol is quite a pragmatic guideline for how factories and trade unions can effectively work together on better labour conditions. The signatory brands have committed themselves to encouraging their suppliers in Indonesia to implement the protocol. This means, for example, that a factory-level bipartite committee and a CBA process must be either set up or maintained.

Involving brands
The FoA Protocol arose through bottom-up negotiation by national trade unions—actively supported by FWF partners CNV Internationaal and Mondiaal FNV —and brands sourcing in Indonesia. FWF is convinced that brands taking on an active role in facilitating factory-level social dialogue empowers both management and trade unions to negotiate more effectively.

FWF’s country manager for Indonesia, Kees Gootjes: ‘I am very happy that FWF brands show their commitment to Freedom of Association and factory-level social dialogue in particular, strengthening an existing initiative and showing that brands can actively contribute to better working conditions!’

Independent review indicated that workers at suppliers where the protocol was implemented believed they were better able to achieve positive changes on the factory floor. Factory-level trade unions felt that the protocol enabled them to stand up more for their rights. The protocol has provided brands with an opportunity to manage labour issues more effectively.

Live feed
The three FWF brands signed the FoA Protocol during a multi-stakeholder seminar in Jakarta by means of a satellite live feed from their offices in The Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. At this seminar, more than 50 participants from the government, employers’ organisations, trade unions and labour NGOs discussed the Indonesian garment industry.

Freedom of Association and social dialogue are issues that are difficult to address, even for FWF members. It is a significant step that FWF brands have chosen to sign the FoA Protocol. They are the first brands to join the protocol since the original six in 2011, which included Nike, Puma and Adidas.

Indonesian garment industry
Indonesia is one of the top 10 garment-producing countries in the world, and has maintained a market share of 1-2% in the global garment manufacturing industry. The garment sector has recently grown after a few years of relative decline. More than two million workers are active in the Indonesian garment industry, comprising approximately 20% of the total manufacturing industry.

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