Violence and harassment —especially against women—in the world of work is a prevalent and persistent issue, deeply rooted in unequal structural norms and practices. It is a global issue that affects all occupations and sectors. It is particularly widespread in the garment industry, which employs a high number of women, often in lower- paid, lower-power positions.
ILO definition of violence in the service sector: ‘Any action, incident or behaviour that departs from reasonable conduct in which a person is assaulted, threatened, harmed, or injured in the course of, or as a direct result of, his or her work’
FWF have developed a guide that outlines clear actions brands can take to tackle gender-based violence, and help the ratification of the global ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work.
In response to the pervasive discrimination and harassment against women in garment factories, FWF’s local Indian staff teamed up with Indian civil society organisations SAVE and CIVIDEP in 2014 to create a special training programme for supervisors in the garment-producing regions of Bengaluru and Tirupur. A more extensive programme previously developed by local stakeholders, including CIVIDEP, formed the basis for this programme.
On 12 September 2018, FWF and FNV partner organisations joined together in Bangladesh to submit a draft law on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace to the Honorable Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Anisul Haque and to the Honorable Minister of Labor and Employment, Mr. Md. Mujibul Haque, for their approval.
This draft law was created in response to a ground-breaking 2009 Supreme Court decision requiring the prevention of sexual harassment in the worplace. Based on the court’s decision, FWF’s Workplace Education Program has been providing training to factories to effectively address and prevent gender-based violence, which includes the establishment and strengthening of internal workplace harassment committees.
The draft was developed through the efforts of the Gender Platform, which involves seven partner-organisations of FNV and FWF—Awaj Foundation, OSHE, Karmojibi Nari, BILS, BLF, BNWLA and IndustriAll/IBC and in consultation with a broadrange of stakeholders.
The prevention of gender-based violence is a key focus of Fair Wear Foundation in Bangladesh and one of the priority areas under the Strategic Partnership, implemented together with Dutch trade unions CNV and FNV.
Fair Wear Foundation organised a study visit for stakeholders from Myanmar to engage with representatives in India on ways to address violence and harassment in the workplace. The goal of the trip was to introduce relevant stakeholders from Myanmar on India’s legislative framework and its application in garment factories.
In 2013 India passed legislation to prevent and address the sexual harassment of women in the workplace. Legislation includes practical measures like the obligation to deliver training on sexual harassment and the requirement that companies with more than 10 employees—including garment factories—establish an Internal Complaints Committee.
The visitors attended several insightful meetings with FWF partner organisations SAVE and Cividep, trade unions, and government officials. They took time to visit a factory where the FWF Workplace Education Programme (WEP) has been implemented. At the factory, the group gained a deeper understanding of harassment and how the Internal Complaints Committee can help protect the rights of garment workers.
Participants included representatives of Parliament, International Labour Organization (ILO), Confederation of Trade Unions in Myanmar, Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA), Gender Equality Network, Labour Rights Defender and Promoter (LRDP) and CARE Myanmar.
This trip represented one of the first times that representatives from government, the private sector, unions and NGOs gathered together to engage seriously on the issue of gender-based violence. It resulted in a strong commitment to work together to develop policies which will contribute towards harassment-free workplaces.
Final report of a complaint at a factory in Turkey that supplies Maier Sports – June 2017
A complainant needed time off to take care of their children’s health. Factory management agreed to give the individual some flexibility as they were interested in the person’s skills. However, after a salary raise the complainant realised they were being paid at a lower level of skill, and thought this was because of the time they needed to take off due to child care.
Management did not want to increase the wages of the complainant nor did they want to pay compensation to the worker for leaving the factory. In the end, the complainant was dismissed and is at home, caring for their children.
Intermediate report of a complaint at a factory in Romania where ODLO has production – October 2017
In February 2017, a former employee at the factory stated that the situation did not support good working conditions and could even violate labour rights. Specifically, turnover was high experienced employees were given extra workload without extra time allocation or a wage increase. Further, there was cronyism instead of hiring qualified personnel. Workers were also discouraged from registering for medical leave. Finally, it was alleged that verbal abuse occurred on a daily basis.
An on-site investigation was carried out by ODLO in May. The investigation found that the workload of experienced workers had continued to increase since 2014, without overtime payment or compensation. A new CBA was negotiated with more restrictive rules. According to the factory management the lack of qualified personnel that drives hiring choices; from the investigation it appears that there was no consultation with worker representation when there was a restructuring of the company. Practices of cronyism were not found. Regarding medical leave, the main issue found was the structuring of rest leave during low season periods, and without consultation with worker representatives; this led to workers using medical leave in lieu of rest. Finally, workers confirmed instances of verbal abuse, and threats of losing their jobs. It became clear that internal communication channels are not working, and that standards for safe working conditions are not met.
FWF recommends Odlo to create an overview of the findings and discuss measures with factory management to improve the situation. A verification audit will be planned in 2018 to verify the complaint.
The Gender Forum 2017 has started on Monday morning! During this three day event in Vietnam, businesses, governments, NGOs and trade unions will share solutions to help put an end to gender-based violence in garment factories, a persistent and widespread problem.
In Ha Long Bay, around 100 professionals have come together to discuss initiatives to fight and prevent discrimination and gender-based violence in the garment industry. Millions of female garment workers are victims of harassment at work. They report verbal and physical abuse and sexual harassment, as well as forced labour, assault and rape.
FWF & partners
The training and knowledge-sharing event is organised by Fair Wear Foundation in close cooperation with the International Training Centre of the ILO (ITCILO) and Dutch unions Mondiaal FNV and CNV Internationaal, FWF’s partners in the Strategic Partnership for Garment Supply Chain Transformation. The partnership is active in Vietnam and seven other garment-producing countries.
FWF has a history of working on gender issues in the garment industry. Since 2012 FWF has worked on establishing anti-harassment committees in factories in Bangladesh and India. In India, FWF launched a supervisor training programme. By training female workers to become supervisors, the programme aims to reduce economic discrimination and change gender stereotypes
CNV Internationaal works hard to achieve a new ILO convention against violence on the workplace. CNV and Mondiaal FNV work with local partner unions in fighting gender based violence on factory level. Just recently, Mondiaal FNV cooperated with the Indonesian federation FBLP. They developed a course covering the different aspects that women face on the work floor, including violence.
Sexual harassment and violence against women are widespread problems in the garment industry where women make up about 80 percent of the workforce. Female garment workers constitute a highly vulnerable group. They are often young, poor, unskilled, sometimes illiterate, and often single women in a society dominated by strong gender hierarchies.
- Want to know more? Don’t miss our Gender Forum updates from Ha Long Bay on Twitter and Facebook!
Complaint at a factory in Tunisia where Bierbaum Proenen has production – Initial Report
On 21 July, 2017, a worker currently employed by a factory where FWF member Bierbaum Proenen has production claimed that management had refused to increase wages according to the new directive by the Tunisian government. Also, that after some pieces disappeared from the work floor and were later discovered, management launched an investigation that included searching workers. Allegedly, if workers refused, they would get their pay docked. A worker who tried to negotiate with management on behalf of all workers was suspended after a heated discussion on the matter. After the discussion, factory management immediately contacted FWF and gave its version of events.
The complaint is under investigation.
Final report of a complaint at a factory in Myanmar supplying Takko
On 7 June 2017, FWF received a complaint from a leader from a production line who has been working at the factory for over a year. According to the complainant, the supervisor from the line frequently shouts and physically touches (slaps) workers in order to reprimand them for mistakes made. With the agreement from the Chinese manager, the supervisor deducts 1,000 – 2,000 kyats from each worker from the line whenever the respective line received a rejection from QC for their products.
On 19 June 2017, FWF got an update from the complainant. She was asked by the management to sign a warning letter for a complaint submitted by 13 workers. She was first asked to accept a demotion because she was told that she managed the workers in her line poorly. She refused to accept that option and asked the management to terminate her with the compensation if they would do it because she would lose her face.
FWF decided that the case is admissible on 07 June 2017. The FWF country representative and Takko local staff went to the factory on 21 June 2017 to investigate further. A total of 20 people were interviewed. The supervisor admitted that she patted the worker with anger because she made mistakes several times. Through the interviews, FWF concluded that some workers were indeed discriminated by the line leader.
Following the investigation, FWF suggested several specific points for remediation. In response, the factory manager told all the supervisors that verbal abuse and psychical touching to reprimand workers is not acceptable. In addition, it was confirmed that the issuing of monetary fines for making mistakes was stopped immediately by the supervisor. The line leader (the complainant) said that she is satisfied that the supervisor changed her behavior, and they can still work together. She would also take the responsibility for her mistakes, and improve for the better.
Interim report of a complaint in Turkey at a factory supplying Hessnatur, Mini Rodini, and Nudie Jeans
The local hotline in Turkey received a call on 1 April 2016 from someone currently employed at the factory. The complainant claimed that workers were coached before the recent audit. He or she stated that overtime work (especially for Sunday work) is mandatory and they cannot refuse overtime work without the risk of losing their jobs. Three workers were dismissed due to their refusal. The worker also claimed that wage discrimination exists: workers who are close to the line supervisors receive a greater wage increase.
FWF informed Hessnatur, Mini Rodini and Nudie Jeans about the complaint. The members contacted the supplier to discuss the outcomes of the audit, the CAP and the complaints. The brand representative from Hessnatur visited the factory on 2 November 2016 to discuss the issues that were raised. The factory owner and management agreed that overtime is a problem, especially in peak season. The brands are in touch with the factory and they are discussing potential solutions.
The factory would like to have more concrete information from the workers to further analyse the situation. The case is under remediation.