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Addressing root causes of excessive overtime

Friday, November 11, 2011

This is a guest post from Korhan Tinaztepe, Assessment Manager for the Fair Labor Association based in Istanbul.

On October 19 and 20, the FLA and Business Social Compliance Initiative hosted a joint workshop in Istanbul, Turkey. The workshop – titled “Working Toward Improving Social Compliance” – brought together brands and suppliers to discuss excessive overtime, which is a chronic problem for workers in the garment sector and is especially prominent in Turkey. Over 60 participants joined the conference each day to discuss the root causes of Hours of Work compliance violations during factory assessments.

Root causes for excessive overtime can be traced back to a lack of policies and procedures related to hours of work, and poor planning and time management at the brand and/or factory level. Evidence from assessments and field reports over the years have shown that excessive overtime is hazardous to workers and can limit productivity at the factory level. Unfortunately, however, solutions to limiting hours of work tend to be only temporary because the root causes are not being addressed.

I have observed management in dozens of factories struggling to cope with daily production challenges. Many believe that focusing efforts on writing policies and procedures – in other words, putting in place a proper management system – would be a time-consuming exercise requiring more paperwork. These steps are necessary, however, in order to prevent reoccurring compliance issues such as excessive overtime.

Workshop participants learned how effective management systems can help brands and suppliers to develop strategies that protect workers from excessive overtime and strengthen productivity at the factory level. This approach – with an emphasis on resolving root causes rather than using a checklist to “catch” compliance violations – will lead to long-term and sustainable solutions that may be replicated globally.

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