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Is focusing on improving available services for factory workers the best way to improve their quality of life and opportunities for betterment? Options
Li Qiang - China Labor Watch
#1 Posted : Wednesday, October 07, 1:14 AM Reply to this Post

Posts: 1

A socially responsible corporation provides many services: creating job opportunities, providing good benefits and training opportunities for employees, producing safe products and protecting the environment. Corporations must also navigate corrupt auditors and auditors who lack technical skills, as it is not uncommon for falsified information to obstruct proper implementation of social responsibility standards. To improve the quality of life for factory workers in China, corporations must strive to ensure the actual and comprehensive implementation of all social responsibility standards.

Corporations must undergo a paradigm shift to meet these challenges, with three main components. First, brands must promote their image as corporate citizens by maintaining consistent policies and educating workers about these policies. Second, corporations must seek to raise both employer's and employee's educational levels, cultivate strong employee-employer relationships and establish labor unions as a platform for negotiation. Third, corporations must turn to third parties to supplement their efforts. In other words, corporate citizenship must emphasize respect, equality, cooperation and negotiation.
Scott Nova - Workers Rights Consortium
#2 Posted : Wednesday, October 07, 1:15 AM Reply to this Post

Posts: 1

No. If all of a brand’s factories were already faithfully complying with international labor standards, including the right to unionize, and were already paying workers a living wage, then improved services would be an appropriate focus. However, there is no major apparel or footwear brand that can make this claim. Labor rights violations remain commonplace in brand supply chains, sub-poverty wages are the norm, and unions are almost nonexistent. Until brands have ensured that their factories have stopped violating their employees’ basic rights, and started paying them decently, they should not be focusing on voluntary social initiatives. These basic goals are readily achievable, but they require brands to do something none have been willing to contemplate – change the operation of their supply chains. Step one: Start paying factories prices that actually reflect the cost of producing under good working conditions. At present, brands publicly embrace corporate social responsibility, and then push their suppliers to accept prices so low that labor rights violations and sub-poverty wages are virtually guaranteed. These pricing practices are fundamentally incompatible with meaningful respect for the rights of workers. Yet they remain standard operating procedure in the industry.

Major brands have the power to protect the rule of law in their supply chains and ensure that workers make enough to lift their families from poverty. Timberland has been one of the better brands on social issues; however, like its competitors, the company has not significantly changed its supply chain practices. If Timberland truly wants to lead, the way forward is clear.
Group Discussion - Traiano Multi Griffes LTDA, apparel factory in Brazil
#3 Posted : Wednesday, October 07, 1:17 AM Reply to this Post

Posts: 1

Group discussions with workers are a regular and critical element of Timberland’s assessment process. Here, we present a summary of a discussion at an apparel factory in Brazil, as captured by the local Timberland Code of Conduct Specialist.

18 workers participated in this July 2009 discussion. At first, 94% said that they would rather have better services available in their factories and/or communities than receiving a salary raise. Only one worker said she would rather have higher wages. However, after listening to the others about their choices/priorities, she changed her mind and also chose better services.

Her name is Rosalina Ferrari and she operates a sewing machine at the factory. This is what she said when she changed her mind: “At first I chose better wages because I already have access to a variety of services within my community. Also my children are all grown and raising their own families so I no longer need to support them. After listening to what my colleagues had to say about their reasons for choosing better services over better wages, I agree with them that having access to education, medical assistance, dental care, housing, child care, and recreational areas/activities would bring a greater collective positive impact to a community than simply giving more money to people/workers”.

Mrs. Elizete Lorini Venson (a sewing machine operator) stated: “If these services were not available in my town/community I would need to earn at least the double of the wage that I am currently making in order to travel to another city/community and have access to such services.”

Mrs. Josiane Bandeira (an assistant at the shipping department) said: “If you think about the benefit for the whole community I would go for better services instead of better wages, especially in the educational area”.

One of the workers stated and all of the others agreed with her: “Better wages alone will not be sufficient to guarantee/ensure access to better services that will fulfill the basic needs of people.”

* translated from Portuguese
CSR Worker Committee - Pou Yuen Industrial Ltd., footwear factory in China
#4 Posted : Wednesday, October 07, 5:50 PM Reply to this Post

Posts: 1

Now that price levels are rising and society is making progress day by day, there is adequate access to personalized services for our workers (such as if someone feels the food is not good, he or she can obtain better food;if someone wants entertainment, he or she can go to amusement places; and so on). Because migrant workers have left their hometown for work, it’s clear that money is the priority; sometimes they even move from one factory to another for just 20RMB or 30RMB. Therefore, higher wages is the priority for our workers.

Raising workers’ wages is based on the premise of the factory making a profit, which is based on the premise of stable order quantity, reasonable unit price and efficient productivity. Our workers suggest that brands like Timberland can do the following:

1.) Reasonably raise unit price and ensure stable and balanceable order quantity.

2.) Assist the factory to increase its production efficiency (such as supervising the factory to set up an effective incentive system or to monitor the factory to conduct capability build-up for supervisors and workers).

* translated from Mandarin
Deborah Leipziger - Senior Consultant @ Maplecroft
#5 Posted : Tuesday, October 13, 3:51 PM Reply to this Post

Posts: 1

Companies need to ensure that workers in their supply chain receive access to services and decent wages, alongside adherence to basic labour standards. Consultation and collaboration with local stakeholders is helpful to understanding the local context and the needs of the community.

Timberland's work in Bangladesh to provide services to workers at the YoungOne factory in the Chittagong Export Processing Zone provides an excellent case study of how companies can work to address needs in the communities from which they source. Alongside CARE and the Local NGO MAMATA, Timberland is ensuring that workers have access to life skills training, health care, and access to credit.

Companies need to consider the sustainability of the communities from which they source, as well as sustainability issues within factories.

Thank you for your leadership and for including voices and views from workers in Brazil and China in this dialogue.
Jeff Ballinger - Activist without portfolio
#6 Posted : Wednesday, October 14, 10:42 AM Reply to this Post

Posts: 36

In a 2007 interview CEO Jeffrey Swartz mused about his desire to “seduce consumers to care” so that his new CSR report is not mere “corporate cologne”. Probably, consumers are too busy with their Facebook profiles and the like. My experience in Asia leads me to believe that engagement may be forthcoming if Timberland would change both the target audience and the information presented.

First, fire all the “social audit” parasites. Tracking changes in worker-to-toilet ratios and compliance with fire-extinguisher-placement guidelines can go to the back burner. Think about ways to empower the locals working in and living near your supplier factories. You can do this by requiring all suppliers to write to the national governments in all 35 countries you source from.

These letters should ask:

Worker Rights – Has country signed ILO Convention 81 (Labour Inspection)? If so, when is the last time a report was sent to Geneva? How many labour inspectors? How many factory visits last year? Number of violations found. Number of prosecutions started. Number of back pay awards.

Environmental – Inspection statistics (factories visited, citations, types of hazardous waste). Plus, bureaucratic chain-of-command: names of responsible local officials and who s/he reports to.

Post these results on your “CSR” website in English and the local languages and I guarantee that real regulation (instead of corporate “self-regulation”) will start happening. First, local journalists and legal-aid NGOs will pounce on the info (they may have been seeking same for years). Next, laggard “international agencies” may feel the need to do something besides planning for the next tri-partite conference. Finally – and most importantly – workers and people who live near the factories will be emboldened by all the attention and fashion their own self-help solutions.

People in the industry acknowledge, when they’re honest, that the default position of low-skilled manufacturing is exploitation and vicious cost-cutting. Similarly, Francis Fukuyama (from the political Right) describes the natural reaction of workers to Taylorist (low-skilled) production arrangements: “trade unions respond with demands that employers specify their duties…since (employers) could not be trusted to look out for the welfare of workers.”
Jeff Ballinger - Activist without portfolio
#7 Posted : Wednesday, October 14, 10:43 AM Reply to this Post

Posts: 36

Searching through the vast output of "corporate social responsibility" initiatives, proposals and commentary, two things jump out: denigration of the idea of "union as solution" and a quite-small collection of promising ideas. Foremost among the latter is the suggestion by City University of NY business professor, Prakash Sethi that multinationals and their contractors need to make "restitution for years and years of expropriation of wages of workers who are at the bottom of the food chain and are least able to defend themselves." This simple idea could usher in a paradigm-shifting chain reaction. The big buyers would be moved beyond accepting blame to accepting responsibility - including financial liability - and courageous workers who stood up to abusive bosses would (better late than never) win cash-in-hand payments for tens of thousands of those cheated workers. Most importantly, perhaps, would be the resultant pressure on recalcitrant "host" governments that failed to protect workers in the first place.

Another idea worthy of further exploration is the approach of the Worker Rights Consortium, the only monitoring operation of any size that has remained out of the grasp of corporate overseers. (Small local operations such as Central American human rights groups COVERCO and EMIH do admirable work, but the impact is limited) The WRC has propounded a plan that would steer university bookstore buyers in the direction of "better" garment shops (college-logo apparel is a $2.3 billion industry). Though students have won agreements at more than two dozen schools, it is difficult for the WRC to recommend even a small number of "better" suppliers - mostly due to the lack of real collective bargaining.

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpos...social-resp_b_46906.html
Liz Umlas - Independent Researcher
#8 Posted : Wednesday, October 14, 5:30 PM Reply to this Post

Posts: 1

Jeff Ballinger touches on a key issue: “real regulation”, or the role of local governments in protecting workers’ rights. The suggestion that Timberland (and other multinational companies) should require suppliers to write their governments and press them on the specifics of labor inspections, for example, is an interesting one. Why stop there? Let’s look at another big picture question – the influence of MNCs themselves on host governments. To what extent might lobbying (by MNCs) in favor of upholding international labor standards bring about what others are calling a paradigm shift? We’ve seen a few, scattered examples of companies challenging their industry organizations (perhaps more in the area of environment/climate change than in labor) and taking positions that are at odds with traditional corporate lobbying but in sync with some of the things civil society groups have long called for. It would be great to hear more discussion of this, by Timberland and others.
Colleen Von Haden - Senior Manager Code of Conduct @ Timberland
#9 Posted : Wednesday, October 14, 8:20 PM Reply to this Post

Posts: 16

Timberland agrees that audits for the sake of auditing won't result in meaningful or lasting improvements in the lives of workers in the supply chain. We have shifted our monitoring process to focus on worker engagement and empowerment. Our goal is to go beyond factory walls and to strengthen communities. We aim to ensure that workers live and work in "Sustainable Living Environments" - an approach that considers the fact that paying higher wages sometimes isn't the answer. You can read more about our rationale in our "Dig Deeper" paper (click on Report button on left navigation). We're excited to see stakeholders weighing in - whether it be on Sustainable Living Environments, consumer relevance, letters to governments, MNCs lobbying for international labor standards, or more - we look forward to continuing the conversation.
Jeff Ballinger - Activist without portfolio
#10 Posted : Thursday, October 15, 7:18 AM Reply to this Post

Posts: 36

Want to know why I never last more than about fifteen minutes in conversations with corporations? Because you're in total denial, thinking you can prettify the local landscape w/ the latest CSR sustainability distraction. In fact, your production is located in the most corrupt and repressive places on earth (OK, well, not in Burma). Who decides where your stuff is produced? Your suppliers - the Taiwanese & Korean multinationals that are really not interested in locating where workers have rights that are enforced. Do you have alternatives? Yes! New Balance decided to keep hundreds of workers in the U.K. and here in New England (about 50 miles from Timberland's HQ). They produce their own stuff & got the labor-cost differential (China compared to Massachusetts) down to $2.50 a pair of shoes. Pretty impressive. Do you know the Zara/Inditex story? Wildly successful & HUGE apparel company. What percent of their production is still done in N. Spain & Portugal? Want to continue this? I promise to read all of your "Dig Deeper" stuff if someone from Timberland will debate me, either on-line or at the BCCC http://www.bcccc.net/ or Sloan, Tuck, HBS...
Jeff Ballinger - Activist without portfolio
#11 Posted : Thursday, October 15, 7:45 AM Reply to this Post

Posts: 36

Want to know why I'm so adamant in my rejection of orthodox CSR approaches? Because I have seen (and done) things that actually work: "participatory action research" involving dozens - even hundreds - of survey-researchers and pressure on governments to raise misery-level wages while addressing the "enforcement gap". These things are possible for a fraction of the cost of ONE company's CSR spending for ONE year.
Benjamin Fashing-Gray
#12 Posted : Thursday, October 15, 9:39 AM Reply to this Post

Posts: 2

I would welcome a debate between Timberland representatives like Colleen Von Haden and Mr. Ballinger.
George Polisner - Alonovo
#13 Posted : Thursday, October 15, 10:13 AM Reply to this Post

Posts: 1

I view the labor component of the SR framework as a house. The foundation must be contextually reasonable compensation and benefits, health/safety of workers, workforce stability and freedom to organize. Services are the exterior of the house -important -but if the foundation is tenuous or non-existent, the services are not viable.

I'd greatly enjoy a debate between Jeff Ballinger and the Timberland folks.
Peter Waterman - Global Labour Charter Project, The Netherlands
#14 Posted : Thursday, October 15, 10:47 AM Reply to this Post

Posts: 1

Debate Ballinger publicly, Timberland!

No ifs, buts, or other avoidance tactics.

Only a straightforward and public debate will leave you with any face at
all, at least amongst critically-minded labour specialists worldwide.

Keith Busch
#15 Posted : Thursday, October 15, 11:12 AM Reply to this Post

Posts: 1

Why not debate these issues publicly?
Gavin Fridell - Trent University
#16 Posted : Thursday, October 15, 11:59 AM Reply to this Post

Posts: 2

I agreed, Timberland should debate Mr. Ballinger publicly
Jim Keady - Educating for Justice, Inc.
#17 Posted : Thursday, October 15, 12:20 PM Reply to this Post

Posts: 2

If you feel 100% sure of your current position on CSR, you should have no qualms about debating Jeff Ballinger publicly. What are you afraid of?

Peace, Jim Keady
Jeremy Larner
#18 Posted : Thursday, October 15, 1:39 PM Reply to this Post

Posts: 3

If Timberland is serious about conditions of Asian workers, you will debate Jeff Ballinger publicly and respond precisely to the facts he cites. Otherwise, I'm inclined to take all this as (perhaps more subtle) PR fluff, not unlike the practices of apparel corporations who advertise "human rights campaigns," but award contracts solely on basis of low-bid and do not police the practices of their subcontractors. (And hire the likes of Michael Jordan as advertising reps...)
#19 Posted : Thursday, October 15, 2:07 PM Reply to this Post

Posts: 1

Why be afraid of debate. It can only help you clarify your position?
Max White
#20 Posted : Thursday, October 15, 3:06 PM Reply to this Post

Posts: 2

I strongly recommend you choose the intellectually honest position, and debate Mr. Ballinger. MNC's must accept responsibility in a meaningful way, rather than just symbolically. Otherwise, a corporation's labor policy is simply its PR position.
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