Blog: Fair Wear's Kees Gootjes in Skopje

FWF’s Kees Gootjes just came back from Macedonia. The purpose of his trip: meet the audit team and as many of the relevant stakeholders as possible.

“Macedonia is, as I learned as newly appointed country manager, quite proud of its illustrious history makers. The many statues and other historical displays emphasized this. The airport, highway and city square commemorated Alexander the Great.

Due to Skopje’s geographic location in a valley and its dependence on wood- and oil-burning heating systems, a heavy fog kept the city shrouded in a smoggy mist for the duration of the trip. In fact, the mayor had warned all seniors and pregnant women to stay indoors.

Longest-serving audit team
In the smoky backroom of a popular restaurant and nightclub we reviewed the past year and made plans for 2014 with our experienced Macedonian audit team. The team is one of the longest-serving FWF audit teams (and, as a result, have met quite a few newly appointed country managers).

During the next few days, we travelled through the frozen streets of Skopje to meet several representatives of trade unions, who were able to provide us with an analysis of the current situation in Macedonia. Minimum wage levels have recently been raised, but the garment sector was given three years to implement this, meaning that in 2015 garment workers will earn the same minimum wage as all the other sectors.

Living wages
In 2014, FWF plans to continue to conduct audits as well as carry on the work started in 2013 on a project funded by CNV Internationaal. This project focuses on the possibility of increasing wages of workers towards living wages, by improving the productivity of the factories where these workers are employed. This means that in 2014, the implementation of productivity improvements and the further analysis of wage increases are high on the agenda.

Having completed the meetings, we were eager to head back home. This was made difficult, however, by the mist that shrouded Skopje and its airport, causing most flights to be cancelled. Luckily we were able to arrange alternative transportation to Sofia, Bulgaria. From there we were able to fly home.”

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