The World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), first reported in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, a global pandemic on March 11, 2020. The impact of the pandemic is unprecedented in modern history. Nations, businesses, and communities face public health, medical, economic, and political considerations as they end the spread of the virus. One essential consideration is the protection of factory and farm workers.
The Fair Labor Association and Iyi Pamuk Uygulamalari Dernegi (Good Cotton Practices Association), a strategic partner of the Better Cotton Initiative in Turkey, in 2017 launched “Improving Employment Practices in the Turkish Cotton Sector—Toward Decent Working Condition in Cotton Farms in Şanlıurfa,” a project in partnership with seven global brands—adidas, Asos, IKEA Range and Supply, Inditex, Nike, Puma and PVH—sourcing apparel and other cotton products in Turkey.
Issues: FLA assessors discovered that pregnant women were working nine hours per day - more than the legal limit - during a 2005 factory visit. Additionally, the factory's on-site crèche, or daycare facility for children, was not functioning.
On October 12, 2011, the Institute for Global Labour & Human Rights released a report alleging a number of noncompliances at the Style Avenue factory in El Salvador, including harassment or abuse and forced overtime. Two collegiate licensees registered with FLA – Outerstuff and College Kids – were sourcing from the factory at the time of this report. Outerstuff and College Kids commissioned FLA-accredited monitoring organization, GMIES, to investigate the allegations.
There are some interesting new postings on the FLA web site related to the FLA’s Syngenta project. As FLA groupies know, that project relates to the FLA’s unique application of its methodologies used in the apparel industry to agriculture. Several years ago the FLA was asked to address the problem of the use of child labor in the Indian seed supply chain. The FLA commissioned two independent studies to assess the risks and then, based on the result of these studies , developed a new approach to internal and external monitoring of labor standards.
FLA’s research, assessments and surveys over the past two years confirm that excessive working hours have a negative impact on workers, often resulting in physical and psychological stress for workers and increased worker turnover. FLA surveys in China found that an estimated 50 percent of workers in the garment industry and 80 percent in electronics manufacturing work more than 60 hours per week, and an estimated 80 percent regularly work more than 7 days in a row. Even more alarming is the fact that 20 percent sometimes work more than 24 consecutive days without a day of rest.
This is a guest post from Korhan Tinaztepe, Assessment Manager for the Fair Labor Association based in Istanbul.
It has become very fashionable to criticize Codes of Conduct and monitoring, and to hold them responsible for all sorts of unpleasant realities in workplace conditions – from sub-minimum wages to excessive overtime. At one level, such criticisms fail to recognize that wage and hour issues predate the wave of codes and monitoring that arose in the mid-1990s. In fact, codes were a reaction to such basic labor law violations.
Understanding workers’ perception of the factories they work in is essential for management seeking to recruit and retain talented and qualified employees. The Fair Labor Association’s SCOPE Workers’ Surveys are standardized, quantitative questionnaires which are completed anonymously by a randomly-selected, representative sample of workers. SCOPE surveys measure the effectiveness and impact of factories’ social compliance efforts in areas such as hours of work; hiring; communication; and grievance and complaint systems.