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Even in the best supply chains, problems regarding labour standards may occur. FWF’s complaints procedure serves as a safety net. It was designed to ensure that workers in member companies’ supply chains can seek redress if local grievance systems do not work. In 2010, eleven complaints were filed. Each complaint was investigated by FWF and actively followed up on by the concerned member company. In each case FWF verified if corrective action was taken successfully.
The last complaint of 2010 was filed on 30 December against a factory in China that supplies FWF affiliate Fabric Scandinavien. After an investigation that included off-site interviews with workers, FWF found that the factory had withheld workers’ wages to ascertain that workers would return to the workplace after Chinese New Year – in China, factories have trouble finding and keeping enough (skilled) labourers.
In consultation with the workers and Fabric Scandinavien, FWF agreed with them that wages of all workers should be paid directly into their bank account after Chinese New Year. FWF would contact these workers after Chinese New Year to verify if this had happened. Quickly after this agreement a representative of Fabric Scandinavien visited the factory to make sure that the factory would make the required payments to workers’ bank accounts.
Ivo Spauwen (FWF’s international verification coordinator for China): ‘The overall number of complaints is relatively low, considering that worldwide, over 300.000 workers work in factories supplying our members. In 2010, our local contact persons received around 50 initial phone calls from workers that related to working conditions in their work place. Most of these were from China, where most production for our members still takes place.’
Some phone calls lead to admissible complaints, which are investigated and reported on. Others are from workers who have questions regarding issues from everyday life. Spauwen: ‘Sometimes people are looking for social counsel, or just want to talk to someone. This particularly happens in the months after an audit was done. To me, this is a positive sign: It shows that workers trust our system after having met our representatives in the field.’
The first report on a complaint was that was filed in 2011 has now been posted at FWF’s website and can be found here. Another complaint, which relates to a factory strike after the workers found that they were paid below the minimum wage, will be published next week.