News from Indonesia: Kees Gootjes' blog

Setting up a local presence in a production country is an intensive and time-consuming process. So instead of having FWF staff travel to Indonesia on a regular basis, it was decided that Kees would work from Indonesia for a few months, to set up an office there. And he wrote to share his experience.

‘Even though there has been an active garment and textile sector in Indonesia since the 1980s, the country has only recently become important as a production country for FWF. More than half of all Indonesian exports have historically been bound for the United States, distantly followed by Japan, Germany and the UK and so FWF members sourced at relatively few factories in Indonesia. However, as manufacturing companies moved their production to Indonesia and more members began sourcing there, it became time for FWF to become active.

Arrival

In the second week of August, my family and I packed our suitcases and headed off to Indonesia for the remainder of 2016. After a long flight, a midnight stopover, and another long flight we arrived in Jakarta and took an overpriced taxi to our new temporary home in Bogor. Since then, I have been working from home, and often commute from Bogor to various locations in and around Jakarta.

It has always been FWF’s approach to meet with relevant stakeholders including trade unions, labour NGOs, employers’ organisations, garment factories, brands and agents, international organisations, etc. For this reason, my first few weeks were filled with meeting relevant stakeholders. These meetings have been invaluable for getting to know the garment sector and the opportunities and challenges that factories and workers face on a daily basis in the country.

Network

One of the benefits of being based in a production country for a longer time is getting the opportunity to have unexpected but very useful meetings that you normally don’t have time for during a short-term country visit. Last Friday, I was given the opportunity to present to a group of almost-graduated students enrolled in the Indonesian Garment Training Centre (IGTC) right here in Bogor. The IGTC is set up to train young Indonesian people for a career in the garment sector, and up to now has a 100% job placement track record. For more than two hours, I was able to have an open and insightful discussion with students about FWF, the importance of social compliance, the pressures that brands put on factories to simultaneously improve working conditions and lower the production costs, and the nature of brand-factory pricing negotiations.

Strategy

Of course, Indonesia is also an important part of the five year Strategic Partnership that FWF is involved in along with CNV Internationaal, Mondiaal FNV and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During my time here, I will also be working to identify potential pilot projects related to social dialogue, living wage and the prevention of violence against women. Another task I have during my time here is to set up an audit team and a training team.

In the coming weeks and months, I plan to start taking Bahasa lessons, meet more stakeholders, visit more factories located further away from Jakarta and, of course, get the FWF audit and training teams up and running…I will keep you posted!

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