“FWF realises good labour conditions by: stimulating sound industrial relations worldwide and, wherever possible, harmonising policies and methods” (from FWF’s mission/vision)
FWF’s ultimate goal is to render its own work obsolete. For improvement of labour conditions to be sustainable, good labour laws and enforcement, a well-functioning labour inspectorate, strong worker representation (labour NGOs, trade unions) and constructive local, national and international cooperation are essential. China, India and Turkey are currently the three main sourcing countries of affiliates. Bangladesh is the sourcing country with probably the most serious labour rights violations. In these four countries, FWF builds cooperative alliances with stakeholders through projects aimed at stimulating sound industrial relations.
Business associations, trade unions and NGOs in these production countries are explicitly invited to make their interests heard at the board level of FWF through representatives of business associations, trade unions and NGOs in the board.
Local stakeholders play a central role in the development and execution of a number of FWF’s core activities. FWF country studies summarise local labour law and regulation, statistics, and workplace practices. Country studies are the product of consultation with local stakeholders, whose perspectives are also included, providing real insights into the local context. They are available to the public at fairwear.org.
In every producer country where FWF is active, local partners provide country-specific policy advice which is used to develop a FWF country strategy. Once complete, every strategy document – and any other pertinent FWF document – is made public and distributed to local stakeholders. This enhances collaboration and accountability.
Local stakeholders are key partners in handling worker complaints to FWF. They have input into the selection of FWF’s complaints handlers, and trusted NGOs are often called upon to help investigate worker complaints when they arrive. By involving local stakeholders in processes to rectify complaints, FWF hopes to help develop local industrial relations systems. In addition, stakeholders can also file complaints through FWF’s complaints procedure.
FWF audit teams, finally, are assembled with advice from local stakeholders. Worker interviewers are often representatives of local NGOs with relevant expertise.
For FWF’s work to be sustainable, managers and workers must have the capacity to develop and engage in functioning industrial relations systems. In addition to what FWF does in all countries where it is active, it develops specific activities and projects in Bangladesh, China, India and Turkey. In close cooperation with local stakeholders, FWF develops training and capacity building activities such as factory training, aimed at enhancing communication and cooperation between workers and factory management.
stakeholders in Europe
Another reflection of the importance FWF places on sound industrial relations is its active cooperation with European stakeholders. In every European country where it has affiliates, FWF gets in touch with stakeholder organisations to inform them about the work of FWF, and also to discuss whether there is any interest to form a national stakeholder platform (NSP).
In Switzerland, where FWF has a number of key affiliates, FWF has a local office which is governed by FWF The Netherlands as well as by three Swiss stakeholder organisations: the Catholic Lenten Fund, Bread for All, as well as Max Havelaar Foundation (Switzerland). Other countries where FWF has key affiliates and/or where there is an interest in civil society to work together on the issue of labour conditions in the garment industry are Sweden, Belgium and Germany.
When FWF acquires new key affiliates from other European countries, similar efforts will be undertaken to establish an NSP with advisory role to the board
harmonisation of international efforts
In industrial sectors with international supply chains, the number of codes of conduct has grown rapidly. The common view in the international debate on codes of conduct is that public claims to follow certain standards must be verified by stakeholders in society.
Multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) derive their authority to verify code of conduct implementation from the endorsement they get from relevant organisations. FWF is such a multi-stakeholder initiative, being supported by trade unions, business associations in the garment industry and NGOs.
There are other initiatives in the market place that FWF can learn from and with whom FWF is cooperating. Internationally, other MSIs working on labour rights are Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI, UK) and Workers’ Rights Consortium (WRC), Fair Labor Association (FLA) and Social Accountability International (SAI) (USA). FWF strives for convergence with these initiatives through the Jo-In Platform (Joint Initiative for Corporate Accountability and Workers’ Rights).
The cooperation between the Jo-In partners currently has the form of a forum, aimed at promoting international consensus on good practice in the field of corporate responsibility for labour rights in supply chains and encouraging greater collaboration for the implementation of good practice.
One of the issues that is being addressed within the Jo-In Platform is the standard of a living wage. Payment of a living wage is one of the eight standards in the FWF Code of Labour Practices. The implementation of this standard is one of the biggest and most complex challenges in many factories. Within the Jo-In project some tools are being developed to face this challenge (e.g. a ‘wage ladder’).
For further information on JoIn please visit: www.jo-in.org