Implementation of Social Standards in the Textile and Garment Industry in Punjab
Title: Implementation of Social Standards Support Programme to the Textile and Garment Industry in Punjab
Commissioned by: German Federal Foreign Office (AA)
Lead executing agency: The Labour and Human Resource Department, Government of Punjab
Overall term: 2014 to 2016
The textile and garment sector is Pakistan’s biggest industry and makes up the backbone of economy. It accounts for 54 per cent of the country’s overall exports and employs 38 per cent of the industrial workforce. Even though it is the most important branch of the manufacturing sector, working conditions in the industry remain challenging. They are marked by poor workplace safety, low wages, a lack of dialogue between employers and the workforce and a lack of co-determination.
Pakistan has been granted enhanced access to the European market under the European Union’s preferential trade scheme, the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) Plus, which offers full removal of tariffs to countries exporting goods to the EU. This is a special arrangement intended to support sustainable development and good governance in least developed countries. To be eligible for GSP Plus status, countries must ratify and implement core labour rights and other sustainable development and good governance conventions. Pakistan has ratified the conventions but is not yet doing enough to enforce them within the country. Tangible steps towards their implementation are a prerequisite for maintaining GSP Plus status.
State and private-sector actors in the textile and garment industry in Punjab are implementing the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions, as ratified in the context of GSP Plus. Approaches have been developed to ensure greater compliance with labour standards in this industry as a requirement of GSP Plus. These approaches are being pursued with the active involvement and cooperation of national-level stakeholders.
The project works in the following areas to support the Government of Punjab in effecting change:
- Setting up an appropriate platform for tripartite dialogue and suitable structures for cooperation between governmental actors, business associations and workers’ unions. This should promote the collective development of approaches enhancing the implementation of labour standards.
- Supporting joint pilot activities to promote the implementation of labour standards, for example through the development of concepts to improve labour inspection regimes, or to enhance gender equality
- Developing tailor-made learning, exchange and networking solutions to foster the sharing of knowledge
- Improving working conditions and increasing productivity in selected factories, using of a dialogue-based approach.
As well as pilot projects and dialogue workshops, the project measures include information events, training programmes and advisory services. Other international actors and initiatives are closely involved, such as the Pakistan Garment & Textiles Buyers’ Forum, which was formed by ILO and the Dutch Embassy. GIZ supports the processes and provides assistance for the pilot measures agreed with the partner institutions. It supplies the requisite know-how, offers capacity development measures and provides resources for implementing the initial activities.
The project introduced the dialogue for compliance in five textile and clothing companies. By doing so, all five partner factories improved their performance in terms of labour standards and productivity. Companies reduced employee absences and improved the working environment, for example, through healthier lighting conditions or by dealing with air pollution and noise. Four out of five companies succeeded in reducing employee turnover and increasing productivity. The defect rate and work in process, meaning the quantity of unfinished products on the production line that tie up the owner’s capital, decreased significantly. By the end of the intervention, all companies had set up functioning works councils as management became aware that works councils were relevant for a structured dialogue with their employees. To demonstrate the benefits of dialogue for employees and the company, the project team calculated the return on investment for the two most successful companies.
The project supported the government, trade unions and trade associations in setting up the Textile Industry Sustainability Forum dialogue platform. The participants carried out three joint stakeholder activities. The first two activities involved publishing a set of posters to promote health and safety at work and a newspaper supplement on formalising employment and the associated benefits for employers, employees and society. A third measure comprised a study entitled Return on Prevention that determined returns on investments made in occupational health and safety. The result – a return on prevention of 2.5 – represents a high incentive for local producers to invest in occupational health and safety. The study was also embedded in the context of the new ISO 45001 occupational safety standard. Another new feature involved calculating the return on prevention in the informal sector.
The project provided training for Punjab labour inspectors on sector-specific risks and hazards. In September 2015, participants then took part in a policy dialogue on labour inspection, where they shared their experiences with policy-makers and discussed policy requirements from an inspector’s perspective.