Sometimes, the smallest things end up making the biggest differences in people’s lives. In fact, the best perk a company can offer its workers is simply its ear.
Pou Yuen (PY) Manufacturing Company is a 6,600-worker footwear factory in Guangdong, China that Timberland has sourced from for over 10 years. Because of ongoing issues related to wages, hours, and health and safety, we determined it was an ideal candidate for a project to improve workplace labor conditions, worker morale (and in turn improved worker retention and lower absenteeism) by involving workers directly in the process of identifying and solving Code of Conduct issues.
Working with Verite—a non-profit champion of labor rights—our assessors helped create a Worker Code of Conduct Committee that conducted monthly chats with workers to help better understand their needs, issues and stresses while on the job, as well as monthly health and safety checks.
The Worker Committee reviewed these monthly checkups and reported back to PY’s CSR Department, who could plan for specific actions. The committee also assisted the factory’s CSR department to organize activities for improving worker morale and CSR understanding. The Worker Committee then communicated this information to their workmates.
One example is a recent issue many workers had with the portions served to them in the cafeteria. Since these workers rely heavily on nourishment from the employer, a satisfying meal is extremely important. When representatives heard that employees were crowding at meal times to ensure they received warm, adequate meals (plus a little rest time before returning to work) they challenged management to make improvements. Today, management oversees mealtimes to ensure there is order and that every worker gets the meal they deserve.
This sounds pretty basic, and it is. Unfortunately, there are many factories in the world that don’t take these simple measures. It doesn’t take miracles, but it does take effort on many people’s parts.
Feedback from all involved showed that formation of a Worker Committee has been a success. Absenteeism, turnover and morale all improved, as well. PY’s management team agreed that the better relationships have helped improve worker’s leisure lives and lower their stress levels, resulting in increased productivity.
Letting workers know that their voices are heard and that they matter is an incredibly important thing to workers, Timberland and PY. Like one local worker said, “I like to work with the representatives and to seek help from them. They are so kind-hearted and helpful. If we have any problems or there’s anything we don’t understand, they will help us to solve it together.”