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In May, FWF’s verification coordinator Margreet Vrieling visited Bangladesh, where she and audit trainer Bobby Joseph did on the job training of new auditors. While there, she kept us informed of her activities.
Together with our audit team, I visited some of the factories producing for our members. In my earlier blogs on Bangladesh, I expressed my concern about the incredibly low level of the wages. Now, the new wage structure is in place. This means that for the lowest grade workers, wages have increased by almost 80% – yet still this doesn’t provide them a living wage.
Not surprisingly, overtime is seen a lot. In order to earn some more money, you see often that workers are willing to do the extra hours. But what if the overtime is as much as 180 hours extra per month? For several workers this is the harsh reality. This means that they often work more than 15 hours a day, and regularly work on their only weekly rest day.
Even though this may only last during the peak season, imagine what this means for their lives: three months in a row with hardly any sleep, incredibly long days and no free weekends. Bearing in mind that to come to the factory they usually walk long distances – one to two hours is very common – to avoid to pay for the transport, or use buses that will take also a long time, because of the traffic. A day only has 24 hours.
In order to start improving these situations it is important to understand the root causes of these high numbers of overtime hours. Is it low productivity, maybe even worsened by the long working hours and low pay; is it bad planning of the factory itself; do they accept too many orders; or do the buying brands set too short delivery times? In most cases you will find a combination of these factors, meaning that a corrective action will need input and efforts on all as well. Our audit teams are trained to consider these causes when writing the audit report; cooperation between brands and factories is central to FWF’s work, making a structured approach to complex challenges like reducing overtime possible.