Vendor Policies - Some Questions
Prancing Leopard Organics is totally committed to social responsibility, community and free trade. Our workers are at least 18 years of age, enjoy health benefits, have employment contracts and are paid extra for overtime. We have been there, met the workers, talked with them. Unfortunately, this is not typical in the clothing industry.
Many manufacturers claim to have protections in place for their workers. Here are some questions you might want to pose about a typical clothing manufacturer’s vendor policies.
“No forced labor”
“There shall be absolutely no use of involuntary or forced labor, whether indentured, bonded, prison or otherwise.” Question: Who from the company has gone there to personally verify this, and what are the processes by which this is monitored?
“No child labor”
“No person shall be employed before reaching adult status in the country of manufacture.” Question: What is the legal adult status in the country of manufacture? Is it 12 years old?
“No harassment or abuse”
“All employees shall be treated with respect and dignity. No employee shall be subject to physical, sexual, psychological or verbal harassment or abuse.” Question: Who from the company has gone there to personally verify this, and how is this being monitored?
“No person shall be subject to any discrimination in employment, including hiring, salary, benefits, advancement, discipline, termination or retirement, on the basis of gender, race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, political opinion, or social or ethnic origin.” Question: Such policies require very thorough education, discipline, reporting and redress procedures on the part of the vendors - what procedures are actually in place and are being practiced?
“Health and safety”
“Employers shall provide a safe and healthy working environment to prevent accidents and injury to health arising out of, linked with, or occurring in the course of work or as a result of the operation of employer facilities. Employers will also ensure that the same standards of health and safety are applied in any housing that they provide for employees. Question: What about healthcare, sick leave, maternity leave and retirement?
“Freedom of association and collective bargaining”
“Employers shall recognize and respect the right of employee’s freedom of association and collective bargaining, such as the creation of unions and employee representation committees.” Question: Does someone actually go there and verify this? What are some examples of successful collective bargaining from the vendors, and which have unions?
“Wages and benefits”
“Employers recognize that wages are essential to meeting employees’ basic needs. Employers shall pay employees, as a floor, at least the minimum wage required by local law or the prevailing industry wage, whichever is higher, and shall provide legally mandated benefits.” Question: Is the minimum wage prescribed by “local law” and “prevailing industry” below subsistence levels? What if there is no minimum wage and no “legally mandated benefits”?
“Hours of work and compensation”
“In addition to their compensation for regular hours of work, employees shall be compensated for overtime hours at such a premium rate as is legally required in the country of manufacture, and not work overtime above the legally allowed number of hours per week.” Question: What are the overtime compensation rates and overtime limits “legally required” in the country of manufacture? Are they adequate?
“Protection of the environment”
“Vendors shall comply with all applicable environmental laws and regulations. In addition, we proactively select and work with vendors that use higher standards than those enforced locally. This translates into the use of recycled and organic materials, the use of low-impact dyes, energy conservation in manufacturing facilities, and various other specific actions.” Question: What is the percentage of recycled and organic materials? What is the percentage of clothing manufactured with low impact dyes? What are the other specific actions?
“Vendors shall comply with all applicable laws and regulations, including those pertaining to the manufacture, pricing, sale and distribution of merchandise, as well as voluntary industry standards.” Question: How can any manufacturer rely on local laws and regulations and voluntary industry standards to ensure decent worker compensation, treatment and benefits?