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Fairtrade in talks with groups in India, Bangladesh
Apr '17
Courtesy: Fairtrade International
Courtesy: Fairtrade International
It has been one year since the Fairtrade Textile Standard and Programme was launched with an aim to make textile production fairer and improve wages for workers. Though certified products have not yet hit the market, Fairtrade has been on job talking to Indian and Bangladeshi NGOs, Indian union representatives, and Don Bosco Vocational Schools.
In 2016, the first companies - Brands Fashion, 3FREUNDE, and MELAWEAR - partnered with Fairtrade to work towards fairer supply chains. Since then these companies and their suppliers in India have opened up their factories for pre-assessments within the framework of the Fairtrade Textile Programme. Fairtrade staff have conducted orientation training in various factories to assess the needs of each company and its workers. 
Another agreement has very recently been made in the UK. The National Union of Students will be the first British partner for the Textile Standard with fair fashion brand Epona. 
Certifying complex textile supply chains takes time. Rossitza Krüger, textiles manager at Fairtrade International, explains "The Fairtrade Textile Standard has very comprehensive requirements for workers' rights and environmental protection. But many suppliers have limited resources and therefore can only take one step at a time. We appreciate every step in the right direction and will continue to support factories on their path towards certification." 
There have been talks with partner organisations such as the Indian NGOs Save and Cividep, Indian union representatives (INTUC), Don Bosco Vocational Schools and the Awaj Foundation in Bangladesh. Fairtrade continues to cooperate with them in order to achieve change in the textile sector, Fairtrade International said. 
Research on what a living wage would be in Tiruppur, India's major textile hub, has recently been concluded. The Global Living Wage Coalition has determined a living wage of Rs 14,250 using the Anker methodology. The Fairtrade Textile Standard requires companies to gradually improve wages to living wage level within six years after certification. More living wage benchmarks for other major textile production regions are underway. 
The Fairtrade Textile Programme is Fairtrade's main tool to support textile factories on their path to certification. Independent experts inspect the factories to assess their compliance with labour law, their health and safety requirements, wages, social security measures, environmental protection and productivity. They then recommend steps for improvement. Workers also discuss their ideas for a fairer workplace and make suggestions. 
The programme has recently been developed further to include training on worker representation. One aspect is facilitating democratic elections for committees, as required by the Fairtrade Textile Standard. Employees and management must attend training on how elections should be held, who can be elected, and what the responsibilities of the committee members are. Over the past few months, almost 20 training sessions have taken place in several companies. 
"For true change in the textile sector, multiple stakeholders must make a joint effort," says Krüger. 
Fairtrade and the Fair Wear Foundation exchanged ideas on improving labour rights in the manufacturing sector and have jointly developed training materials. "Over the past few years, the Fair Wear Foundation has supported us enormously with valuable know-how," explains Krüger. In future, Fairtrade and the Fair Wear Foundation aim to mutually recognise audits for certain requirements of the respective standards, to avoid duplication. (SV)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

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