Safeguarding workers from injustice

To be certain, women are among the most vulnerable to abusive labour practices. We do not condone any underage, forced, or bonded labour—nor other forms of abuse toward workers, especially women—and work closely with suppliers to make sure these are absent from our supply chain.

We expect suppliers to give special consideration to the rights of women and all those who are especially vulnerable, including home, agency, temporary, and migrant workers. We are using a gender lens—focusing on women—in our sustainability strategy to ensure that all of our goals can help improve the lives of the women who work in our supply chain.

Zero tolerance for discrimination

We require that our suppliers do not engage in, support, or tolerate discrimination in employment, including recruitment, hiring, training, working conditions, job assignments, compensation, promotions, discipline, termination, and retirement, on the basis of gender, age, religion, marital status, race, caste, social background, diseases, disability, pregnancy, ethnic and national origin, nationality, membership in worker organizations including unions, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or any other personal characteristics. If we find any of these situations in production units supplying C&A, we educate our suppliers on how to avoid and eliminate discrimination. Repeat issues with a supplier will result in termination.

This important aspect of our business will evolve over time to support the UN Sustainable Development Goal of Gender Equality, and increase the proactive nature of our commitment to gender equality beyond auditing.

Case study

case-study

Ensuring no child labour or other abuse in embroidered garment supply chains

India is competitive in the global apparel market thanks in large part to those who produce hand-embroidered items. Yet these workers—who often work at home—have received little support to date, with their situation declining due to market pressure. We allow this conditionally if suppliers follow C&A Guidelines for the Use of Home Workers, which is adapted from the Ethical Trading Initiative guidelines.

Through a two-year pilot, GoodWeave seeks a new sourcing system that will increase supply chain visibility and improve conditions for homeworkers. The pilot is in collaboration with C&A and three of our suppliers in India, with funding from C&A Foundation. It will test and refine GoodWeave’s system: mapping the supply chain, conducting inspection and monitoring, improving workplace conditions, and offering child protection and education programming.

Learn more about GoodWeave

No tolerance for harsh treatment

We expect our suppliers to treat workers with dignity and respect. We do not tolerate abuse, harassment, the threat of abuse, or any forms of intimidation. We expect suppliers to have clear policies and procedures and we require disciplinary actions to be fair and consistent. Incidences of harsh treatment will result in termination of a production unit and discipline of the supplier. In 2015, we did not detect cases of physical or sexual abuse through the course of our factory audits.

Strategies to end child labour

In our new Code of Conduct, we raised the requirement on the minimum age of workers in our supply chain to follow the recommendations in the ETI base code and to meet our expectations. Workers must be at least 16 years old. We do not allow underage workers to be present in any supplier production area, even if not working. If young workers—defined as 16 to 18 years old—are hired, suppliers must comply with all relevant legal requirements, including work hour restrictions, hazardous work restrictions, and health checks.

In addition, we proactively partner with C&A Foundation on important projects with non-governmental organizations like GoodWeave. This programme seeks a new sourcing system that will increase supply chain visibility and improve conditions for homeworkers, while eradicating child labour.

If child labour is identified in our supply chain, the child is removed from the factory immediately. In 2015, we identified eight cases of underage workers in the supply chain which were effectively remediated, supporting the underage worker until legal employment age.

To remediate these situations, suppliers are required to pay minimum wage until she/he reaches the legal minimum age. To discourage the underage person from seeking a job elsewhere, monthly payments are disbursed until he/she reaches a legal age.

We also require that suppliers provide families with compensation for health screening, transportation funds, and accommodation for a child’s relatives to return him/her to the home. If the child is willing to attend lessons, suppliers must pay the vocational fees until the child meets the legal minimum working age. At this point, the individual should be given the opportunity to be re-employed.

To foster this process we partner with local non-governmental organizations like the Centre for Child-Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility (CCR CSR) in China and Southeast Asia, Sheva in Bangladesh, and Çagdas Yasami Destekleme Dernegi (The Association for the Support of Contemporary Living) in Turkey to ensure that the underage worker is supported and tracked through the process of remediation.

Eradicating forced labour

Workers must be entitled to freedom of employment and movement. Work must be voluntary, and all forms of bonded, indentured, or prison labour are prohibited. In our Code of Conduct forced or bonded labour is a zero tolerance issue. Suppliers and labour brokers must not restrict the freedom of employment of workers by:

 

  • Controlling original identity papers, like passports and work permits.
  • Imposing financial coercion that might deprive workers of their financial freedom, like charging unreasonable recruitment fees, unfair employee loans or credit.
  • Requiring a monetary deposit for employment, like training fees or charges for personal protective equipment, uniforms, and working tools.

 

It is also important that workers are free to refuse performing certain tasks that are hazardous—without fear of disciplinary action, discrimination, or termination of employment.

During working hours, suppliers must allow workers to have free access to toilets, water, and breaks without any disadvantage, disciplinary action, discrimination, or termination of employment. In addition, suppliers must allow workers to leave the production unit either at the end of their shift or under extenuating circumstances, such as personal or family emergencies or illness, without fear of disciplinary action, discrimination, or termination of employment. If any form of bonded, indentured, or prison labour is identified in our supply chain, we terminate the relationship with the production unit immediately and the supplier will be disciplined.  In 2015, we had zero cases of forced labor detected in the audits of our global factory base.

 

Taking steps to abolish Sumangali

Sumangali is a form of bonded labour practised in parts of India that violates international labour standards and the human rights of women. Women are given three-year contracts, often in unacceptable working and living conditions, with the promise of a bulk payment that will cover their dowry to get married. However, their wages are often held back, if they receive them at all, and they are not allowed to leave or return to their homes.

We first became aware of this illegal system in 2007. Since then, we have been working to eradicate it from our supply network, and we regularly inspect our direct suppliers—with an emphasis on spinning mills—to ensure the bonded labour practices and curfew have been discontinued.

Abolishing Sumangali will be possible only through collective action by brands, suppliers, non-governmental organizations, policymakers, and communities. We have joined the Tamil Nadu Multi-Stakeholder Initiative’s Nalam Programme. Nalam is a year-long peer learning program created by Ethical Trading Initiative to educate young female workers about their rights and responsibilities in the mill sector. So far, four of our mill suppliers from Tamil Nadu have signed up for the training programme. An additional two are in the process of joining.  In 2016, we will increase collaboration with stakeholders to further address this issue.

To support the eradication of Sumangali, the C&A Foundation has been working for several years to address the root causes of the issue, beginning with a three-year project run by child rights organization Terres des Hommes. The program aims to rehabilitate girls and women and provide education. To date, around 10,000 girls and women have been released from Sumangali contracts and are enjoying education. Now, C&A Foundation is expanding this approach with a €770,000 grant to reach 25,000 girls and young women, providing schooling, vocational training, and work placement.

C&A Foundation is also working to prevent vulnerable girls and young women from entering the system in the first place. In 2015, C&A Foundation made a €2.4 million grant to The Freedom Fund, the world’s first private donor fund dedicated to ending modern slavery. The initiative brings strategic focus and reinforces industry collaboration to curb demand for bonded labour. It aims to mobilize at least 240 communities in Tamil Nadu to promote education and training, along with care to rehabilitate survivors.

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Supporting migrant workers and refugees

Supporting refugees 

Our approach to refugees is exemplified in how we have supported the Syrian refugees in Turkey. As of this report, Turkey is the world’s largest recipient of refugees, hosting as many as two million displaced Syrians. C&A Europe applauds the generous open door policy of the Republic of Turkey. At the same time, we are well aware that the situation of Syrian refugees in Turkey is extremely difficult, and assisting them requires more than providing life-saving aid. We’ve been actively working with Ethical Trading Initiative, Fair Labor Association, and other brands to ask the government of Turkey for a process that would enable refugees to receive legal permission to work. Without it, refugees are more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. We welcome the government’s decision to finalize the work permit regulation that went into force in January 2016, and will continue to educate our suppliers and their factories to protect the human rights of Syrian refugees.

In 2015, we identified two cases of illegal Syrian migrants working in our suppliers' factories in Turkey. This situation involved six workers in two factories. To remediate the situation we worked with our suppliers to identify the root cause and develop a corrective action plan to prevent future incidents. In these two cases, all of the workers were 18 or older. We have not experienced any Syrian refugee children in our supply chain.

Throughout 2016, we will also conduct unannounced audits in the southern part of Turkey close to the Syrian border. We will develop concrete steps to support production units, such as by raising awareness about the new employment regulations for Syrian refugees and their implementation.  We will support our approach by collaborating with other brands and stakeholders to avoid human rights abuses of refugees.

Creating fair conditions for 2,500 migrant workers in Brazil

In Brazil, Instituto C&A is helping improve the lives of Bolivian and Paraguayan migrants working in apparel factories. Because these workers don’t always know their legal rights, they can end up working in irregular conditions.

Together with non-governmental organization partners Missão Paz and Pastoral Immigrant Support Centre, Instituto C&A is helping immigrant workers obtain the documents they need to work and live legally, and understand their rights in the workplace. Financial support and help with strategic planning are also provided.

In 2015, a non-profit centre that supports immigrants, Centro de Apoio e Pastoral do Migrante, helped 2,500 immigrants register as residents and made 950 visits to factories and immigrant homes to provide advice on social welfare and labour conditions issues, in addition to legal counselling in some 400 cases. Additionally, C&A Brazil has become a founding member of InPACTO, the National Institute for the Eradication of Slave Labour. As one of the main supporters, we’re shaping the initiative’s direction and providing important funding.

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