We expect our suppliers to provide regular employment. This means they must not try to avoid obligations to employees under labour or social security laws through the use of labour-only contracting, subcontracting, home working arrangements, excessive use of fixed-term contracts, apprenticeship schemes or probationary employment terms where there is no real intent to impart skills or provide regular employment.
We also support workers’ rights to form or join trade unions, and collaborate with suppliers to empower workers for productivity and satisfaction. One example is the open dialogue we’ve begun with our Cambodian suppliers and labour groups to give workers effective ways to raise concerns. Going forward, we plan to expand supplier roundtables to other production countries where we have seen evidence of freedom of association issues.
Strong business skills are vital to managing and expanding a small enterprise. In Brazil, many of our suppliers operate small businesses and don't necessarily have the resources to invest in commercial training. We started a Business Management programme with key suppliers in 2014 to build their commercial skills and confidence. Twenty key suppliers completed the five-module programme in 2015, gaining knowledge and practical skills in topics quality, productivity, finance, taxation, and people management.
Luiz Passos, Commercial Director, Marcel BR
C&A sees the potential of our businesses and people, so it aims to empower not only the directors of companies, but also the company owners, and the company itself. After we learn in the management course we try to replicate it, not only inside the company, but also to subcontractors and other people who are part of the supply chain.
We’ve had open dialogue on freedom of association with our Cambodian suppliers, the International Labour Organization, Better Factories Cambodia, and the Cambodian Ministry of Labour to help our suppliers give workers effective ways to raise concerns and grievances. Ultimately, we want to help workers approach their employers on pay and working conditions without fear of reprisal.
We held four roundtable discussions with all relevant parties in Cambodia to address this issue in 2015, with approximately one-third of our Cambodian suppliers participating. In particular, we highlighted the importance of developing healthy industrial relations with workers and their unions.
We want to identify alternative and anonymous channels for workers to voice their concerns, so we can better support our suppliers as they identify issues and improve health, safety, labour conditions, and worker satisfaction.
C&A Foundation is partnering with two organizations—LaborVoices and LaborLink—whose mobile phone interactive voice recording technology allows workers to listen to workplace information about their rights and voice their concerns by responding to a survey. With our suppliers, we are piloting LaborVoices to help improve working conditions at factories in Turkey. In Bangladesh and China we are testing LaborLink.
In the first year alone, our team in Turkey enrolled 40% of our production units in the LaborVoices programme, and throughout the year over 27% of workers from the participating factories actually used the channel. In 2016, we will work closely with our production units to enroll 80% of our suppliers' factories in LaborVoices. We hope to use this bottom-up approach to advance supply chain transparency and find alternatives to auditing that can improve working conditions. In the next stage, we aim to assess whether the solutions identified in the process are making positive impacts in the workplace.
In 2015, after we have the code of conduct signed for all the Brazilian suppliers, SSC and training departments brought together an innovative way to make the Code of Conduct for the Supply of Merchandise available to all of our suppliers.
We developed an app for smartphones to give the suppliers access to the Code everywhere and everytime, in a easy and agile way to all the information they need to know about the Code. When they have doubts, they just have to look into their smartphone or tablet the contents organized by categories. With this innovation, the suppliers can know the SSC requirements, the Supporting Guidelines to the Code of Conduct and the digital version of the Code of Conduct for the Supply of Merchandise.
In Mexico, garment workers are often not aware of their rights, and sometimes work without labour contracts or social security numbers.
In 2015, we launched a national competition inviting university students to create an infographic showing the benefits of labour contracts and how they work. Sixty students developed inventive designs. Suppliers, production units, and textile associations will use the winning design, announced in 2015, for education purposes.
C&A received an ethical business award from the Mexican Centre for Philanthropy in 2015, recognizing our efforts to improve labour conditions in our supply network.
In particular, we had provided training to all direct suppliers on C&A’s new Code of Conduct, and helped them develop and implement their own corrective action plans.