In July 2016, we made a call for concepts under our programme to improve working conditions. The call was for concepts that would:
We received a staggering response with over 100 submissions. It is encouraging that there are so many organisations working to improve the working conditions of garment workers around the world.
The four successful concepts share several common threads; they all included an element of innovation and held potential to change the trajectory for working conditions. We also kept an eye on the long-term, prioritising submissions from national organisations or where a high percentage of the funding is allocated to national organisations. The four successful concepts are:
Since the Rana Plaza tragedy, the government of Bangladesh has passed new laws enhancing trade union rights, and introducing mandatory participation and safety committees in factories. These new provisions are under-utilised by workers, both because workers do not know them and because of fear of discrimination or retaliation. BLAST is working to re-shape access to legal services for Bangladeshi garment workers, particularly female workers. The service will provide rights information, legal advice, mediation and advocacy for individual and group cases. Additionally, the initiative also works to spark further legal reform through national-level advocating together with workers, employers and other stakeholders.
India's apparel industry is fragmented and geographically dispersed. In addition to a high number of home-workers, an increasing proportion of the sector's workers are being bussed in from remote villages, or being housed in factory-run hostels. This, along with the shrinking space for freedom of association, make it difficult for labour activists to reach workers, enlist and represent members and communicate regularly. Gram Vaani brings the social media experience to people of low literacy and those unable to access the internet through a voice-based mobile phone platform. The programme already has over one million users in India, increasing connectivity, education and communication for a variety of social purposes. This programme will now bring this tried and tested platform to workers in the apparel and related supply chains. The platform will enable improved working conditions will be achieved with enhanced awareness and social dialogue, tighter campaign coordination, and stronger evidence collection, as well as grievance referral and follow-up.
International Labour Rights Forum (ILRF), (with BCWS and CENTRAL)
Most initiatives to improve factory compliance are led by brands, with limited worker participation. This tends to limit improvements to factories with motivated buyers, and issues that can be identified through audits. Brands may discover issues and leave factories without informing workers or government. As a result, workers often remain ignorant of threats to their safety and health. This initiative aims to increase the participation and leadership role of workers in the development and implementation of initiatives to improve their own working conditions., The programme is a collaboration between ILRF, BCWS in Bangladesh and CENTRAL in Cambodia and will include conceptualisation of a new worker-led tool for so that they can monitor and improve their own conditions.
WageIndicator, (with KSBSI and Garteks)
Despite widespread efforts, many garment factories in Indonesia still fail to comply with minimum wage and labour laws. Currently, workers and unions do not have access to information that compares compliance between factories. This limits the ability for unions to negotiate improvements, and for workers to make informed decisions on where to work. Together with partners KSBSI and Garteks, WageIndicator will adapt their existing “Decent Work Check" survey, to collect information directly from garment workers. Through a mobile app that publishes feedback on user-friendly webpages, workers and buyers will be able compare data between factories. The grant will also enable WageIndicator to collect and codify garment industry collective bargaining agreements to add to their existing database on gajimu.com, and to host local “debates" with employers, unions, labour inspectors and brands to catalyse improvements.
We are excited to be partnering with these organisations and wish them success as they begin their new programmes. Thank you again to all who participated in the call for concepts last year, and please do keep checking back for future calls.