Collaboration on joint grievance mechanism approach
Fair Wear and the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles continue working on the improvement of effective access to remedy
Cooperation between the Partnership and Fair Wear enters a second phase
Following a first pilot phase that generated some key learning, the cooperation of Fair Wear and the German Partnership on Sustainable Textiles (PST) will continue into a second 18 months pilot phase. Under the first phase, Fair Wear opened its grievance mechanism to the members of other industry initiatives for the first time. Now, the aim is to scale up by expanding to further countries. Besides the two production countries included in the first phase, India and Vietnam, the project will now also take place in Bangladesh, Turkey, and in Eastern European countries. The project seeks to provide access to remedy for more workers in the textile and garment industry, while at the same time testing a model for a jointly accessible grievance mechanisms – addressing the risks of multiple remedy systems existing in parallel and confusion for the intended users. As of May 2023, the participating brands are Textilkontor Walter Seidensticker GmbH & Co. KG, textilhandel-cotton-n-more GmbH, Karl Diekhoff GmbH & Co. KG and Esprit Europe Services GmbH. From the side of the civil society PST members, the project is accompanied by FEMNET e.V.
Expanding the complaint mechanism to provide remedy to more workers
Fair Wear’s grievance mechanism is easily accessible for factory workers, who can call or text a local complaints handler to raise a complaint. After checking whether the complaint falls under the mandate of Fair Wear, the claim is forwarded to the brand to approach the concerned factory. The involved parties work together to solve the problem and find remedy for the affected worker(s). The system is based on the principle of shared responsibility between the brand and the factory, and using the leverage that brands have at factories to facilitate remediation. Throughout the process, Fair Wear protects the complainant’s identity, while involving other stakeholders such as worker representatives and unions or providing support for undertaking legal steps if necessary. The complaints are open to the public in an anonymised form on the Fair Wear Website.
Awareness is key
A grievance mechanism can only work if the intended users know about it and trust it. Based on the takeaways of the first phase, the project will put a stronger focus on raising awareness amongst workers. Fair Wear will visit some of the participating production locations to ensure that workers know about their rights and the existence and benefit of the Fair Wear mechanism. In parallel, the project partners (especially FEMNET and the PST) will work on an approach to involve local NGOs and worker organisations in awareness raising and accompanying workers in filing complaints where necessary. Furthermore, there will be onboarding sessions for the factory management, highlighting the benefits of trusted complaint mechanisms to foster a supportive environment for the project and enhance their participation and cooperation.
Benefits for all
The project’s main objective is to provide effective access to remedy to textile and garment workers to address violations of their labour rights safely and anonymously, and thus improve their overall working conditions. But the participating brands and factories also benefit from this, as the project addresses substantial requirements from the UN Guiding Principles and the OECD guidelines. As national and European level legislation is brought in, these guidelines will become binding. By participating, the companies can share experience, identify best practices and get on track with the human rights due diligence obligations. At the same time, Fair Wear, the PST and other multi-stakeholder initiatives will gain worthwhile experience about the process of scaling up existing grievance mechanisms to a jointly usable system, for more coherence and coordination in providing effective access to remedy. This knowledge will likely shape future projects to cover even more workers with trustworthy and reliable remedy structures and contribute to efforts on aligning the approaches of different initiatives.