In September 2022, The Centre was asked to conduct a child labour risk assessment after an internal audit assessment by the EU's SMART Factories Programme found five child labour cases in Brand A’s supplier factory based in Myanmar.
During the assessment, the factory management, in a display of transparency, reported an additional 11 cases of potential child labour. In total, with the full support of the factory management, The Centre confirmed 16 cases of child labour and identified 39 young workers who were subjected to excessive working hours and hazardous working positions.
However, this story is not just about the problems uncovered. It is about the commitment that the factory has shown to put things right. The factory's management team, upon realising the gravity of the situation, immediately embraced the remediation programmes put forth by The Centre.
Through The Centre’s remediation services, the factory provided living stipends and educational support to address child labour cases, while offering on-the-job training, health check-ups, and suitable job allocations to the young workers. Brand A, on the other hand, covered a third of the financial support, which included case management and factory training costs.
To ensure a lasting impact, the factory's management team organised training sessions for their staff and workers at all levels, focusing on preventing child labour, managing young workers, and raising awareness about labour-related issues. Empowered with this knowledge, the factory has assembled a dedicated team responsible for preventing child labour and managing young workers. This team has revised the company's policies, introducing new measures to protect the welfare of young workers. They have restructured work positions, allocating young workers to non-hazardous tasks and ensuring appropriate working hours. Regular training on occupational health, safety, and grievance mechanisms was also conducted to enhance the career development of the young workers.
The factory is also taking proactive steps to address the concerns and needs of their young workforce. They conduct monthly meetings, actively listening to the young workers' experiences, and working conditions. When young workers expressed concerns about not being able to take the factory’s shuttle bus as their working hours did not align with the other adults, the factory arranged additional shuttle buses to transport all the young workers safely to and from their homes.
The factory has stated a commitment to continue hiring young workers with suitable conditions and working hours in the future. They even made a promise to rehire the child labour cases once they reached the age of 16, now as young workers. This will help to ensure that the positive outcomes achieved through the remediation programmes will be sustained over time.
Through this journey, the young workers found their voices. They spoke with gratitude, reflecting on the impact the programme had on their lives. One young worker expressed their relief and happiness at being able to work under their real name, without the need for fake identification.
By recognising the challenges and taking decisive action, Brand A and the factory management demonstrated how positive change is possible. They not only rectified the immediate issues but laid the groundwork for a brighter future for young workers in their factory. It serves as an inspiration for others to prioritise the well-being and rights of workers, especially the youngest among them.