The International Labour Organisation has set a target to bring an additional 127 garment factories under its Better Work (BW) programme by next June, to ensure greater social compliance and workers' rights.
At present, 98 garment factories in Bangladesh are members of the BW programme, Louis B Vanegas, programme manager of BW Bangladesh, told a group of journalists at his office in Dhaka.
“We have a target to engage another 225 factories by the end of June and 500 factories by the end of 2021 in Bangladesh,” Vanegas said.
The programme sponsored by the ILO and International Finance Corporation was launched in Bangladesh after the Rana Plaza building collapse.
The scheme aims to improve working conditions and promote competitiveness in the global garment supply chain.
Currently, BW operates in seven countries -- Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Jordan, Haiti and Nicaragua -- and engages 1,300 factories, employing more than 1.6 million workers.
In Bangladesh, 120 factories have been brought under the programme so far and 98 registered, employing 201,995 workers while the number of global buyers is 31, Vanegas said.
Engaging with BW is mandatory in Cambodia and Haiti, while it is voluntary in other countries, he said.
Vanegas said the scheme is not an alternative or substitute and has no conflict with the ongoing inspection at the garment factories by the two foreign agencies -- Accord and Alliance.
BW mainly deals with social compliance in garment factories. “BW was launched to ensure better social dialogue to resolve any crisis in the garment sector, like wage hikes, ensuring better productivity, cleanliness in the workplace, and better worker management,” he said.
Citing a study by Tufts University, Vanegas said an independent review showed there were significant gains in the quality of life for workers in the factories they advised, as well as enhanced productivity and profitability for those businesses.
The BW programme has dramatically improved working conditions in hundreds of garment factories across seven developing countries, he added.
The scheme moves away from practices leading to long working hours, low pay, dismissal threats, or abuse of probationary contracts, he said.
“Workers are seeing an increase in their weekly take-home pay and are less and less concerned with excessive overtime and poor wages,” according to the study.
Researchers found that BW's supervisory skills training is an effective strategy for improving working conditions, and empowering women in the industry, Vanegas said.
The analysis showed that production lines overseen by supervisory skills–trained female line supervisors increased factory productivity by 22 percent, when compared to lines overseen by supervisors who had not yet received such training.
The research establishes a direct link between better working conditions and higher profit firms. “Across all factories tracked in Vietnam, after four years of participation with BW, average profitability increased 25 percent,” the study said.