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International Verification Coordinator Ivo Spauwen is just back from Vietnam, where he was visiting factories and meeting with local audit teams. He shares some of his observations from the trip.
Much of the trip was spent in Tam Ky, in the center of Vietnam. The factories here seem more ‘balanced’ than larger ones I’ve seen near Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city. Workers here are local residents, rather than migrant workers, and so they go to their own homes every night rather than a dormitory. Overtime is still common, but a dialogue is expected and possible between workers and managers. Worker turnover is relatively low in the area.
Factories in this area also seem more relaxed about being audited and having the Code of Labour Practices and complaints hotline information posted in the factory. I’ve noticed that factories in the north and south of the country are much more concerned about strikes and worker unrest. I wouldn’t say that smaller-scale factories in small towns are necessarily better than larger facilities in the big textile hubs, but it is interesting to notice the differences.
In terms of process and content, my role has been limited as always during audits, which is as it should be. FWF’s team here works well. They get the issues right on the table with factory managers and lead a friendly, constructive/critical discussion with managers.
As a country coordinator, it is important to spend time with local audit teams to the strengthen what is otherwise a long-distance working relationship, and to stay up-to-date on common issues that the audit teams encounter. And of course in each visit you learn something new that helps in working with member brands. Sometimes it’s a really simple thing, like fire extinguisher placement. You can have lots of fire extinguishers in a factory, but if they’re not in the right places they aren’t much good. It only takes a few minutes in a factory with bad fire extinguisher placement to understand something that might have taken many emails and reports to communicate otherwise.