Beyond Tier One: Supporting Workers' Rights and Mitigating Child Labor Risks in SMEs in the Garment and Textile Sectors in Türkiye

Issues Child Labor Health Safety & Environment Hours of Work Responsible Recruitment

With funding from the United States Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in 2019, Fair Labor Association (FLA) began a project to promote decent work and mitigate child labor in the upper tiers of garment and textile supply chains in Türkiye. This multi-stakeholder project builds on FLA’s efforts to address decent working conditions, child labor, and responsible recruitment across various sectors in Türkiye.

“Beyond Tier One: Supporting Workers’ Rights and Mitigating Child Labor Risks in SMEs in the Garment and Textile Sectors in Türkiye” aims to increase awareness about labor issues, prevent labor standards violations, and provide alternatives to protect vulnerable workers (including children) in small and medium-size enterprises. To achieve this, FLA has partnered with local stakeholders, including industry associations, brands, suppliers, workers’ unions, and the Turkish government.

Workers in the agriculture, footwear, garment, textiles, and furniture sectors often face excessive work hours, poor compensation, and no access to remedy. The upper tiers of these supply chains are difficult to penetrate, with high risks of child labor, poor health and safety conditions, unethical recruitment practices, and lack of written contracts.

Migrant laborers are often vulnerable to such risks; Türkiye hosts an estimated four million Syrian migrants, many of whom are reported by UNHCR to be working in precarious conditions in informal unregulated sectors. In an effort to address the increased risk for Syrian refugees working in Türkiye, FLA has increased awareness of Syrian workers and advocated for their work permits with the national government.

For more information about this project, email Michiko Shima, Technical Director, Agriculture and Supply Chain Innovation.

Project Objectives

  • Engage stakeholders and disseminate information to promote decent work and eliminate child labor and workers’ rights violations.
  • Create visibility into the upstream supply chain and pilot remediation and prevention of exploitation of vulnerable workers.
  • Develop or strengthen existing programs by building the capacity of key stakeholders — employers, trade unions, brands, workers, CSOs, and government officials — in garment and textiles supply chains to promote a decent workplace and eliminate child labor.

Project Activities

  • Stakeholder engagement and information dissemination through a Project Steering Committee of key stakeholders and internal reports, training, and lessons-learned event.
  • Outreach to upstream supply chain actors through review of regulatory frameworks and local programs for SMEs, Tier Two baseline assessment, and a Worker’s Feedback and Grievance System (WISE) pilot.
  • Capacity building through training extended to Tier Two participants and information dissemination via WISE.

Expected Outcomes

Project activities support three expected outcomes:

  • Creation of a network among stakeholders to promote decent work, as well as eliminate child labor and address workers’ rights violations in the upper tiers.
  • Identify challenges and opportunities to enhance visibility of and engagement with the upstream supply chain.
  • Strengthen existing capacity of key stakeholders in the garment and textile supply chain to promote a decent workplace and eliminate child labor.

FLA translated the International Labour Organization’s “Safety and health in textiles, clothing, leather and footwear” into Turkish. A reference document for the project participants, the code provides practical guidance to public- and private-sector practitioners responsible for ensuring health and safety for workers in the textiles, clothing, leather, and footwear industries.

Project Updates

As of December 2022, FLA recently concluded this multi-stakeholder project supporting workers’ rights and mitigating child labor risks in Türkiye’s garment and textile sectors with a webinar highlighting findings and future challenges, as well as a full report (see below).

Panel participants from the Istanbul Garment and Apparel Exporters Association, adidas, the International Labour Organization, and the Textile, Knitting, Clothing, and Leather Industry Workers’ Union of Türkiye reflected upon the increasing importance of extending social compliance efforts beyond Tier One suppliers, especially given upcoming mandatory human rights due diligence legislation. They also shared available projects, tools, and resources to help small- and medium-sized enterprises build their capacity in social compliance issues.