Factory gymnastics and more: Ivo and Sofie in China

Sofie Schop, FWF’s business development manager, joins Ivo during his trip to China.

On my way to meet verification coordinator Ivo Spauwen in China I realized how lucky I am. Usually I am travelling within Europe (which is great) and now I was on my way to expand my horizon in China’s Qingdao and Shanghai. This was the third time I attended an audit for training purposes and it was as exciting as the first time. To be able to experience what I am always talking about (labour conditions of workers in factories our members work with), was inspiring, to say the least.

Besides the audit I was really looking forward to a meeting Ivo and I had with a Chinese factory seriously interested in joining FWF directly. If we start a pilot with this factory, it will be a new experience for all parties involved. The meeting went very well. Both the factory and FWF believe a cooperation will be beneficial. We will keep you posted on further developments.

On the 27th and 28th of May a FWF factory audit took place. The auditors, Billy, Jennifer and mr. Ding, and Ivo and myself started the day with a factory tour. During this tour we experienced an inspiring daily routine for all factory workers. Apparently, twice a day an energetic gymnastics workout is blasting out of several speakers in different areas of the factory. All workers participate in a 20 minute workout.  I tried to join but I am obviously not used to this kind of routine exercise. Besides this I might have provided too much hilarious distraction for all other, much better trained, participants.

After this energizing discovery (I think I am going to introduce this workout in our headoffice too),  the auditors started to go over documents, speak with management and interview workers. I tried to attend part of all these processes to get a good grasp of the auditors’ approach. Unfortunately I am not fluent in Mandarin (yet) and I therefore paid attention to body language and other visual communication. Our audit supervisor briefed me at several points (in English) about the progress and main findings.

What I found really interesting to see was the way the on-site interviews were carried out. Workers where first informed about FWF and about their rights. After that they received a questionnaire (related to their labour conditions) which they filled in. The worker interviewer discussed the main outcomes both with the group and individually. I can image that the outcomes of this session in combination with the off-site interviews will provide valuable input for the other aspects of the audit.

In the afternoon, the audit supervisor already informed the factory management about the main findings in the audit so far. I believe this approach enables FWF to work together with management rather than policing them. Besides this the factory management knows what is going on too, which probably stimulates them to implement required improvements.

After a great Chinese dinner in a local restaurant (I can still taste the amazing clamps and local kebabs… mmm), the audit team discussed the main findings of the day in relation to the FWF labour standards. They determined if they still needed to check specific things and prepared for the next days’ exit meeting with worker representatives and management. At this time of day you also start to feel that carrying out an audit is quite intense and somewhat exhausting. This feeling was illustrated by a conversation between Ivo and supervisor Billy. Billy referred to the fantastic local foot massages. Ivo replied that he would love to experience a real food massage. ‘’I can’t believe that the Chinese really carry out a massage with food, how interesting…’’ No further comments from my side here: time for bed!

On the second audit day the main focus lay on the exit meeting. Even though I couldn’t understand what was being discussed I was positively surprised by the interaction I saw. Per labour standard the auditors discussed the main findings. CAPs where already discussed and factory management told the auditors that they were very pleased with the open approach of the team. It was great to see that everybody was well informed after the audit. I was impressed by the transparent and thorough approach of the audit team. It will definitely help me to share my experience with European companies even more enthusiastically.

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