The Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) 1 is an international verification initiative dedicated to enhancing garment workers’ lives all over the world. FWF’s has over 120 brands .
Improving working conditions?
Members must comply with the 8 labour standards 2 outlined in the Code of Labour Practices:
- employment is freely chosen
- Prohibition of discrimination in employment
- No exploitation of child labour
- Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining
- Payment of a living wage
- No excessive working hours
- Safe and healthy working conditions
- Legally-binding employment relationship
The list of brands working with FWF can be accessed on FWF website. 3 Compliance with the Code of Labour Practices is checked by FWF 4 through factory audits and a complaints procedure, through management system audits at the affiliates and through extensive stakeholder consultation in production countries.
Who can file a complaint?
FWF’s complaints procedure can be accessed by a factory worker, manager or by a representative from a local trade union or NGO. Complaints concern violations of the Code of Labour Practices. This system only applies when workers are not able to access local grievance mechanism, i.e. when other options, such as factory grievance systems or local labour courts, are not fair, effective, and/or accessible.
Process and Outcome 5
In every country where it is active, FWF has a local complaints manager. Upon receipt of the complaint, FWF carries out a basic check of authenticity and, if the complaint is deemed, the FWF analyses if the complaint is admissible or not. When a complaint is deemed admissible, FWF informs the complainant and / or involved workers and the member brand(s)sourcing from the factory. The latter is then required to inform the factory. FWF could also inform worker representative, other brands sourcing from the factory, social partners and local grievance institutions.
When a complaint is declared admissible, FWF investigates it and shares the results of the investigation with the complainant and the member, for consultation, and it then later shares the final report. Investigations result in one of three findings: grounded, not grounded or no conclusion possible.
In case a complaint is found to be grounded, the conclusion of the investigation will include the full remediation that is needed. FWF will formulate a required action that clearly delineates the role of the FWF member and the factory and will make this public. The approved remediation plan will then be shared with the complainant and the member or members. FWF will update the information on its website and inform those stakeholders that were informed about the admissibility of the complaint.
The FWF member brand is responsible for ensuring the implementation of the remediation plan agreed upon is carried out. FWF is responsible for verifying whether a complaint has been fully remediated according to the agreed-upon remediation plan. FWF will verify the implementation of the remediation plan after a period agreed upon with the involved parties.
When a member company, the plaintiff or the accused party disagrees with the outcome of the procedure, or disagrees with FWF’s methods of verification; or when FWF is certain that a member company is not addressing the complaint seriously, appeals can be made to FWF’s executive Board. The Board will consider the advice of FWF’s Committee of experts and decide on a proper course of action.
The list of complaints can be found on FWF website’s resource pages: https://fairwear.force.com/public/s/complaints/
FWF complaint mechanism in action
Metraco (2006) 6
In April 2006, a complaint was filed concerning the Metraco factory in Turkey where FWF affiliate O’Neill was sourcing at the time. The complaint involved unlawful dismissal of union members and harassment of others, constituting an infringement on the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining and was found to be justified. In October, an investigation was conducted by an independent person appointed by the Dutch employers association MODINT, which is also one of FWFs funding organisations, and five FWF and ETI member brands, working with Metraco.
In December, MODINT received the report which found the claims from the union to be justified and, a letter was sent to Metraco, with recommendations including protecting workers’ rights, re-employing the unfairly workers dismissed and entering into dialogue with the trade union with the assistance of an observer. All requirements were not accepted by Metraco, thus FWF came to the final conclusion that Metraco had been acting in clear violation of the International Labour Standards on Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining and not showing the will to correct this serious non-compliance by refusing to come to an agreement with the trade union on the issue of the workers that had been dismissed because of their trade union membership.
JSI/O’Neill informed FWF – in a “confidential manner” – in October that they would stop ordering from Metraco, mainly due to business reasons but also because of their reluctance to correct their non-compliance.
FWF assessed the member companies’ attempts to remediate the situation, and concluded that they had seriously tried to get the issues solved and could not be qualified as a “cut & run” policy.
Takko Fashion (2014) 7
On 17 May, 2014, a complaint was filed by 12 workers concerning a supplier of Takko Fashion located in Bangladesh.
The workers from finishing section claimed that the factory did not pay minimum wages, that it had reduced operators’ monthly wages, and that they were forced to unpaid overtime and were not provided with payslips. In addition, the workers said that they would be under a lot of pressure from the management or even got fired if they objected to unpaid overtime. On 19 May, 2014, FWF decided that the case was admissible and that it was relevant to FWF’s Code of Labour Practices in relation to payment of living wage and occupational health and safety, and regard to harassment.
The local audit team conducted an audit in September 2014. The audit was able to verify part of the complaint on wage payments. Additionally, it was found that verbal abuse with sexually explicit profanity was common in the factory.
The audit report was shared with Takko Fashion, which was meant to follow up and make sure the factory paid minimum wages to all workers and maintain record on overtime. A training programme on preventing and reducing harassment at work was set up, with the aim of setting up an internal grievance handling systems to improve working conditions. At least 20 requests for support, including unfair termination, verbal abuse, maternity benefit, were solved by the factory’s internal process up to November 2014.
The remediation process includes verification conducted by FWF with regards to the issue of harassment, and plans to verify minimum wage payment to cleaners.
Complaints against factories in Bangladesh supplying Takko Fashion continue.
SALEWA, DYNAFIT & Wild Country (July 2019) 8
On July 21st 2019 a complaint was filed by a worker of a factory of SALEWA, DYNAFIT & Wild Country in Bangladesh, who had been working three years at the factory and, at the time fo the complaint, she was four months pregnant for her third child. The complainant claimed that “management asked her to resign from the job as they do not want to pay her maternity benefit” and when she refused to resign she was forced to sign her resignation, with the last workday in the factory 31 July 2019.
The brand informed the factory on 25th July, and Salewa Compliance Manager of the Bangladeshi supplier talked both to HR & Compliance team and the worker in order to clarify the facts. The result of the investigation was that:
- 1. The complainant, who is working in the factory for less than two years, has two children and she is expecting now a third child. As per Bangladeshi labor Law, in the case of a third child, the worker is entitled to have maternity leave but not the financial benefit.
- 2. The floor administrative person & welfare officer asked the worker to resign if she feels not comfortable in working during pregnancy.
- 3. The worker talked about law requirements and the forced resignation with the HR & Compliance team, and she lodged the complaint.
- 4. The Compliance team and the top management took the complaint very seriously and talked to the floor administrative that told the worker to resign.
- 5. The administrative confessed that “he only suggested her to resign if she felt problem to work but not forced her”
- 6. HR & Compliance team assured the worker she can keep her job and have the maternity leave.
- 7. The worker confirmed to have receive all the information and know she can address to the Compliance team or our Compliance Manager for any future issues.”
Following this investigation, the brand asked for evidence of the non-validity of the resignation letter and suggested organizing a meeting with all the supervisors to discuss how to handle this type of situations, including the need to involve Workers’ Representatives, members of Anti-Harassment Committee.
The brand also checked that In the HR policies of the supplier (HR Recruitment Policy, Women Worker Working Policy & Maternity Worker Working Policy), there is no clause or system to force any pregnant worker to resign from the job.
FWF then checked with the worker hadn’t lost her job, and asked her to provide the Attendance Card of the complainant for the first week of August.
The supplier also took other measures such as: including the Anti-Harassment Committee function & activities in its induction training for new employees and conducting more regular meetings of this Committee.