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The president of a local NGO in Macedonia, that works to improve the labour conditions in the garment sector, called the FWF helpline to complain about a supervisor of the production line (brigadier) in a factory producing for Havep.
The complaint was submitted by the NGO as they received calls from several workers from this factory. The claim is about the supervisor's mobbing behaviour towards workers for not allowing them to take additional breaks to go to the toilet or drink water during the hot summer period. The workers are allowed to drink water and/or go to the toilet only during the official breaks according to the decision on working hours. Taking into consideration that most workers in the factory are women around 45 years old, they tend to feel sick at high temperatures and the attitude of the supervisor puts their health at risk. One day, a woman was taken by ambulance to the hospital as the supervisor did not listen when she was expressing her sickness. The complainant informed that there is a need of urgent action, as the hot summer will continue at least for another three weeks, and if nothing is done more workers might fall sick and go to the hospital. This is the second complaint in a period of 10 days for the same issue against the same supervisor of the production line.
After FWF informed the brand, the brand took internal investigation on the complaint. The factory responded that the factory management was aware of the complaints, but that the claim in the complaint was not factual as it was presented. The worker was not taken by the ambulance but it was the factory car that transferred the worker to the hospital. In terms of working conditions, managements responded that there is a ventilation system in the factory the temperature is kept in line with the legal requirements. After a discussion with the brand and ask the factory to follow up on the complaint the factory management agreed to organise the meeting with the supervisors of the production lines.
The meeting took place on 03.09.2019. The factory manager told the brigadiers that they had to correct their behavior towards the workers, that is to say, no screaming and misconduct. The suggestion was accepted by the brigadiers. The technical director is nominated to be in charge of the implementation.
The Trade union representative was present at the meeting and she was instructed to inform the workers to carry out their tasks without discussion so that no confrontation with the brigadiers would occur.
Factory management considers that brigadiers will apply the instructions and workers would provide a better working environment and execution of assigned tasks.
In order to verify the progress on the situation, FWF will conduct a verification audit on 20-21 September and it will include investigation for the previous complaint submitted on 9 August, as it includes the same violations for the CoLp.
In meanwhile FWF has made the following recommendations for the brand to follow:
- The factory management should ensure that the workers are informed about the meeting (the MoM from the meeting can be posted on the notice board). In a spirit of social dialogue, the workers should be invited to add their feedback/ questions.
- Factory management should speak with the individual workers who have problems with the brigadiers in person and try to solve the tension between them. This way the worker's voice would be supported by the management.
- The factory management, under no circumstances, is allowed to punish or threaten the workers if they want to complain, but rather to have a neutral position and to investigate closely the reason why the workers feel mobbed by some of the brigadiers. (although the reasons may sound familiar). Workers should be allowed to talk freely on their labour issues with the brigadiers and/or the management. If the factory management takes a side against the workers, the situation might escalate under this tension.
- Factory management to discuss with the TU representatives so they can encourage the workers to communicate through them as well if they have more problems of this kind. The TU should keep written notes of the communication with the workers and the meetings with the management.
The filed investigation of this complaint was conducted on 20-21 September as part of the verification audit for the submitted complaint #519. The full verification audit included an investigation on the latest two complaints on safe and healthy working conditions and discrimination at work. The FWF investigation included document inspection, workers and management interviews, and visual inspection. In-depth interviews with supervisors of the production lines against which the complaint was submitted were also conducted.
The investigation has confirmed that the brand and the factory management has addressed the initial claim and organized a joint meeting between the trade union representatives, supervisors of the production lines and the factory management.
However, there is unpleasant communication between the workers and some of the brigadiers. Workers informed that after the complaints submitted in the month of August, the communication is slightly improved, but again the pressure on reaching the orders deadlines from the management to the brigadiers continue along the chain to the workers and create stressful working conditions not only between the brigadiers and workers but also between the workers. Most of the workers can not rich the piece rate and therefore they can not earn a dissent salary. The number of workers employed in the factory is decreased by 50 compared to 2017 which on the other hand 135 workers can not produce the same as 177 and this creates higher pressure toward the workers. The workers are afraid that communication with the brigadiers will not be improved in the long run.
Social dialogue and communication at the factory level are weak or not existing at all. Worker's luck awareness of the FWF CoLP, factory's policies, grievance mechanism, and CBA. There are indications that not a clear communication system can lead to mobbing in horizontal and vertical lines that urge for a need for preparation of procedure and mechanisms for prevention of harassment at the workplace according to Law against discrimination at the workplace.
Although there is a factory registered trade union, the workers do not refer to the trade union in case of problems during the work, because they do not have any confidence in the trade union. The trade union representative has no skills and knowing what the role and responsibilities of the representative are. Meeting minutes of trade union activities are not available. Although there is a trade union in the factory the Collective Bargaining Agreement is not signed on the company level.
There are no documents kept indicating the existence of an established factory system for communication.
The interview was conducted with the supervisor/ brigadier against who the claim was submitted. Her version of the story explained that the worker has responded with insults and harsh language toward the brigadier when she asked her to finish the job she started. According to the interviewed brigadier, in the last year, the complainant has been on sick leave for more than 6 months.
The investigation of the complaint showed that the factory management in an attempt to prevent further conflicts organized a meeting with all the supervisors of the production line and Trade union representatives and the communication has been slightly improved, but the workers feel skeptical for how long this pressure will be prevented.
There is no written policy and procedure that exist in the factory regarding discrimination.
Factory management, with support from the brand, should ensure that internal procedures will be developed/ or improved the existing one. This includes a procedure that will regulate internal communication; grievance procedure, disciplinary procedure, and antiharassment procedure, and/or other if it is relevant. The TU representatives should be engaged in the process and after the procedures are developed/improved they need to be clearly communicated with all workers or posted on the factory notice board. This will avoid further miscommunication and will safeguard both workers and the management in their communication.
Management should ensure their commitment to good internal communication is in force on every management level. The factory management should organize more meetings with the supervisors of the production lines in order to identify what are the root causes for frequent absence from work and to prevent any further threats communicated to the workers. WEP training can be also considered as an option.
The factory manageemnt should consider reallocating the harrassed person from one production line to another. The factory management should form a committee where the Trade Union and Management, under the supervision of the Brand, will analyze the cases in detail. The management should also take the responsibility to assess the individual behavior of both parties in the case and communicate to the immediate workers and associates of the worker and the production line. Do this through anonymous research
Lessons learned from this complaint need to be documented and used as an input for the prevention of such conflicts in the future.
Factory management should communicate all findings with workers and discuss this case openly to find out worker's opinions and how to avoid such conflicts in the future.