Social themes central to new collective project in India under Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile

Participants in the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile are launching a collective project aimed at improving working conditions in India’s Tamil Nadu region. The aim is to tackle various social themes, including discrimination & gender, child labour, forced labour, freedom of association, living wage, and health & safety in the workplace. The project will run for three years.
Workers sewing in a clothing factory Workers sewing in a clothing factory | © Shutterstock

The project, ‘Factory support programme: continuous improvement of labour conditions in Tamil Nadu, India’, will see seven signatories of the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile working with their suppliers, Arisa, Mondiaal FNV and local NGO SAVE to address risks in their supply chain. The participating signatories are Euretco, Fabienne Chapot, HEMA, O’Neill, Prénatal, The Sting and WE Fashion. The Dutch Fund for Responsible Business (FVO) will help to finance the initiative.

Policy and implementation

The project focuses on improving the participating companies’ business processes and on supporting the local workforce. To improve their business processes, the project partners will map the supply chain beyond the locations where garments are assembled, get to work improving purchasing and other practices, and draw up policies emphasising international responsible business conduct. One important part of the project is to support suppliers in establishing effective worker-management consultative committees. The committees should then be able to address complaints and develop measures to avoid potential risks in factories.

Training

Another aim of the project is to improve workers’ knowledge of labour law so that they can defend their rights more vigorously. A training programme has been developed for committees in 75 factories and textile mills. In addition, residents in 35 hostels, most of them workers, will also receive training. The underlying idea is that workers who are aware of their rights will be better able to stand up for themselves. That is why, in addition to training workers, a regional helpline for workers will be upgraded and linked to the complaints and dispute mechanism under the Agreement. This will allow the participating companies to take specific action to combat malpractices in their supply chain.

The companies participating in the Agreement work with a due diligence management system that involves continuous risk analyses and prioritisation of the most serious risks. Based on this system, the participating companies have decided that they wish to work actively to improve working and living conditions in the Tamil Nadu region. They are also exploring opportunities for cooperation with other initiatives in the region so as to avoid overlap and to increase the impact on workers’ living and working conditions through joint action.