Information videos launched to address worker rights in garment industry in Asia

There is a considerable gap in the level of awareness among garment workers in Asia about their rights and responsibilities. This often results in worker rights violations within a factory situation which increase the attrition rate and absenteeism. Apart from this lack of awareness it also gives rise to serious health and safety issues which results in fatal accidents and injuries to the workers. Swedish multinational retail-clothing company, Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), have partnered with Solidaridad to start a programme for garment factory workers in India, to develop better management practices and systems in order to promote worker rights and responsibilities.

Garment brands and buyers are aware of the prevailing challenges and increasingly working towards a partnership approach with suppliers to develop better management practices and systems aimed at improving the current situation. H&M partnered with Solidaridad to leverage its experiences in Bangladesh where they had instituted a similar programme for its garment factories.

Four global brands namely; Carrefour, S.Oliver, Tesco and Wal-Mart also joined the project; which will target the total supply base of H&M and one-hundred factories plus brand partners in India.

The idea is to develop appropriate tools to focus on worker rights and responsibilities to build factory capacities and create awareness among thousands of workers to promote positive behaviour change. The project in Bangladesh addressed workers’ rights and responsibilities in suppliers’ factories in consultation and collaboration with local NGOs.

Information videos encourages a participatory approach

According to Ranjeeb Sarma, Programme Head of Textile and Cotton for Solidaridad, South & South-East Asia; the idea behind the videos seeks to use a participatory and interactive approach to worker awareness in order to create a relatively good impact.

“The success in Bangladesh encouraged H&M to replicate the same model in India in collaboration with Solidaridad. Other brands also joined in this initiative which culminated the creation of informative videos focused on awareness pertaining to workers’ rights and responsibilities,” he said.

In order to achieve sustained change, H&M and Solidaridad believes that supply chain partners must be empowered, transparent and be accountable at all times and understand the benefits that could accrue to their business; as a result of a good worker rights focused employment environment.

Focus areas of training programme

In Bangladesh more than 440,000 workers and middle managers have been successfully educated and trained until 2011 through the use of audio video tools. The topics selected for the India programme include health and safety, misconduct (abuse and grievance redress), overtime, good working environment and workers’ representation in the garment industry.

The information tool of the programme aims to increase worker management communication through a participatory approach model. The unique concept co-created by civil society, global brands and the industry will do the following:

  • Supports a development model approach to social compliance, and
  • Add up as an internal training programme for the manufactures which help strengthen their management systems.

Programme use a different training model

This programme doesn’t intend adopt a class room training approach. The focus is to use video as a medium which picks up a few threads from the lives of workers ‘and weave that together into a movie which highlights key issues affecting them at the workplace.

In planning the programme, it was set to understand where value could be added at each level, with the supplier and with the factory. In an audit focused model, most expectations were at the factory level.

Through this empowerment approach, the project partners also seek to develop supplier’s capacity and responsibility for better factory performance.