The BIF garment market strategy is based on a detailed market analysis conducted by BIF from October 2013 to October 2014. Our market analysis identified:
- Constraints around the quality of jobs, including an apparent inability to pay workers more, reduce overtime, improve health and safety, remove low paid below age workers and invest in other areas of worker welfare; and
- Constraints to the industry being able to achieve potential growth and thereby provide a lot more good quality jobs.
Why this intervention is important for Market System Change
Currently the garments industry lacks demonstrable evidence and positive examples of the benefits of better jobs leading to improved company performance. Unaware of the potential benefits, factories do not focus on improving working conditions for their employees. In addition, lack of strong management skills and low productivity also prevent the factories from working with larger EU/US buyers in the market.
BIF is currently working with 15 garment factories, providing HR and productivity training to the businesses so that they improve their practices, increase efficiency and improve their positioning for supplying larger buyers in the international market. BIF is doing this to develop a well evidenced ‘business case’ that can demonstrate to the whole industry that there is a commercial benefit from improving both labour welfare and productivity. Read more about the randomised control trial that BIF is running here.
The training programme begins with a detailed needs assessment phase, involving engagement with factory owners, management, supervisors, trade union representatives and workers to understand each factory’s priorities and needs. Following the needs assessment, six training modules covering a range of HR and productivity topics are delivered over 21 days, interspersed with regular follow-up days to check factories’ progress and support implementation.
The HR training modules focus on a number of key topics, including establishing clear roles and responsibilities, as well as introducing support networks (such as buddying schemes) and formal and accessible communications and feedback systems. The HR training looks to formalise promotion and appraisal processes, and establish clear links between these processes and workers’ pay and bonuses. In addition to this, the HR training modules emphasise the importance of having policies on induction, leave and absenteeism; ensuring health and safety procedures are in place; and managing instances of underage workers in factories.
In parallel with this, factories are trained on productivity. This not only includes upskilling operators and improving quality by reducing waste and re-work, but also builds capacity within factories so that they can effectively track and analyse KPIs, calculate productivity improvements and understand the financial benefits that result.
Progress and results measurement
Between August 2015 and March 2016, half of the factories received training in all six HR and productivity modules. Training of the remaining factories begins in May 2016. This timetable was designed in order to enable BIF to measure the impact of the training.
Already factories are observing improvements as a result of the training. For example in one factory repairs of garments took 80% of the factory’s operation time before the training and this has now been reduced to 20%. The owner noted that before the training that the piles of garments to be repaired amounted to about 1,000 pieces every day but these are now down to 200 pieces, which has led to a reduction in overtime working hours and significant cost savings for the business.
Crucially, to fully understand the impacts of the training programme and capture robust results and analysis to feed into the business case, BIF is working with Tufts University to conduct a Randomised Controlled Trial, which is described in more detail here. BIF will disseminate the business case after all factories have completed the training and the results of the RCT have been analysed, which is expected to be in early 2017.
Improving worker welfare and productivity in garment factories