Over the past several years, the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Better Work Programme has been working with apparel factories in several developing economies to improve compliance with international labor standards and competitiveness in global supply chains. Better Work’s Enterprise Advisors engage with factory management and workers to improve industrial relations, strengthen systems and processes, and support sustainable improvements in working conditions at the factory level.
One important tool for achieving these objectives is effective grievance mechanisms, which can play an important role in identifying, preventing and remediating issues of concern on the factory floor. Factory-level grievance mechanisms can help support workers’ ability to raise concerns and seek remedy in the workplace, enable factory management to understand and address those issues before they escalate, and provide global brands and retailers with an important source of data about factory conditions in their supply chains and help build confidence that suppliers have the systems in place to prevent and address their human rights risks.
As the Guiding Principles make clear, such mechanisms should not undermine the role of legitimate trade unions; indeed, industrial relations processes involving management and those unions are themselves a form of grievance mechanism.
In collaboration with Better Work staff, Shift developed a manual for Enterprise Advisors to integrate guidance on effective factory-level grievance mechanisms into the support that Better Work provides to factories. The practical guidance is intended to enable Enterprise Advisors to facilitate and accompany factory management and workers through the process of understanding what effective grievance mechanisms are, how they can contribute to improved worker-management engagement, with an emphasis on supporting and involving trade unions, and key steps in designing and implementing such mechanisms.
Shift led a capacity-building workshop for a representative group of Enterprise Advisors from Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Lesotho in Jakarta in November 2013 provided continuing support to those Advisors as they worked with factories in the months following the workshop.