In China, few producers have an effective mechanism in place to capture and respond to workers’ grievances and suggestions. However, empowering workers to voice their concerns is central to improving labour conditions and creating a transparent dialogue between workers and managers.
The Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) commissioned Impactt to support 12 of its China-based suppliers in improving their grievance mechanisms, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights (UNGPs). We trialled two approaches to help producers change the way they thought about communicating with workers and build transparent grievance systems. One involved two days on site to identify opportunities for improvement, train managers and review progress. The other involved group training, on-site meetings and remote support. Importantly, we sought to understand which method was the most practical and scalable for suppliers.
The Impactt team recorded workers’ and managers’ views on the impact of the training across four key areas: legitimacy, transparency, accessibility and dialogue. All 12 suppliers improved their performance, achieving an overall score of 72%, vs 49% at the outset. All the factories established effective grievance systems, including clear processes and grievance records, and some 70% of managers reported that they would be more likely to listen to workers. The factories where managers and HR teams showed a willingness to communicate respectfully with workers performed the best.
Both approaches worked well, highlighting that the more cost-effective, remote training option would work well for BSCI. We also recommended further training options for suppliers with worker communication challenges. For example, our RESTART programme helps managers to see workers as human, a fundamental step in improving worker-manager communications.