Rowlinson Knitwear is improving workers’ rights at its Bangladeshi partner factor, New Horizon, with the creation of the first democratically elected workers participation committee.
Driven forward by Rowlinson and facilitated by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) as part of their Social Dialogue Programme, the committee is an important step in ensuring working conditions are fair and workers have a voice.
The ready-made garments (RMG) industry in Bangladesh accounts for 80% of total export earnings and employs four million people. However, the industry has been plagued with poor working conditions as highlighted by the fatal Tazreen and Rana Plaza factory disasters. Poor workplace safety has improved but forced overtime, irregular wage payments and sexual abuse and harassment remain commonplace, with reforms proving slow. Rowlinson is at the forefront of driving positive change throughout its supply chain, working closely with its Bangladeshi partner New Horizon to enhance working conditions and rights.
Ken Edgar, overseas director at Rowlinson, said: “Ethics and sustainability are just as important to us as making a profit, so we consider the welfare and rights of everyone in our supply chain. With support from ETI Bangladesh, New Horizon’s Elected Workers Participation Committee gives their people a voice to raise concerns and improve their workplace. It’s a step forward for workers’ rights and better performance, too.”
The new Elected Workers Participation Committee includes eight elected factory workers, comprising five women and three men. Its role is to give workers a voice – something that is generally lacking for those working within the RMG sector in Bangladesh. It will help workers and employers to better understand their rights and responsibilities, improve communications between workers and management, increase the participation of women in workplace processes and improve morale.
The Elected Workers Participation Committee, which is recognised by Bangladesh law, is the latest in a long list of ethical initiatives Rowlinson has undertaken at its New Horizon partner factory to improve life and working conditions for factory workers. Initiatives have included the gifting of water filter systems, funding an anonymous support line, gifting sanitary products to alleviate period poverty and providing free reproductive health education. Rowlinson provides similar support to its Totex partner factor in Egypt, including paying the Living Wage and providing weekly visits from doctors.
Mr Edgar added: “As a B Corporation, we want to help build a better way of doing business, considering the impact of our actions on both people and planet. That shouldn’t stop when it comes to our supply chain. It’s our responsibility to ensure everyone involved in the making of our garments are paid and treated fairly, work in safe conditions and are given a voice.”