GBL will be organizing a side-session at the OECD Forum on due diligence in the garment and footwear supply chain (February 21-25, 2022).
Topic: The importance of worker voice in ensuring good working conditions
Working conditions in the garment manufacturing industry, largely concentrated in developing countries, are known to be notoriously poor. Can incorporating a form of human rights due diligence fix this?
Workers are often exposed to different forms of discrimination and stressors due to immense production pressure, thin profit margins, and gender imbalance. The combination of these factors results in power asymmetry which manifests in the form of shouting, abuse, and harassment on the factory floor which, along with other issues related to the work environment, often go unreported and/or unresolved. Such a stifling work environment, where workers feel like their concerns and grievances go unheard, negatively impacts not only the rights and well-being of workers, but also backfires, impacting firm productivity and profitability.
So there is a need for a trusted communication method for workers to address their grievances in order to feel safe at work, and for factory management to listen and help, preventing issues from becoming systemic. But, in most firms, existing mechanisms of worker-management communication and grievance redressal are just the ones mandated by law, and those required by brands, if any. However, these channels often exist merely for the sake of compliance and audits, and they fail to provide transparency and accountability. Oftentimes, managers either turn a blind eye to the incoming reports or there is no set procedure to deal with them. Additionally, workers do not trust these mechanisms as they fear retaliation.
For achieving a responsible global garment supply chain, due diligence on working conditions and wellbeing of workers needs to go beyond just checking for compliance and audits, which only scratch the surface. Our research on worker wellbeing in garment factories in India suggests that using an easy-to-use low-technology system for capturing workers’ grievances anonymously can be really impactful in achieving “good business”— one which is both responsible, and profitable. We recently concluded a large-scale Randomized Controlled Trial carried out across 38 factories in India employing over 74,000 workers over a period of 18 months to measure the social and business impact of such a solution we developed, and our initial findings are promising.
The confirmed list of speakers, date, time, and registration link will be updated soon on this page