The Works Committees strengthening the working of a factory

by Dheeraj Tagra

17-February-2019  |  7 mins read

Skits prepared and performed by the workers are easy and one of the best ways of conveying the message to the other workers. This skit was done at the closing ceremony of workplace co-operation program

Works Committees are the most productive way of creating a good atmosphere among the workers of any factory. Be it any small issue of workers or any major initative of a brand or factory itself, these committees not only empower and strengthen the workers, but also improve the overall working of a factory, removing all kinds of fear, increasing mutual trust and eradicating all kinds of conflicts. Archana Tomar Mann, VP, Compliance, CSR, Training & Development Orient Craft (OC), shares how the OC –through such committees – is making strong and supportive teams of workers who are not only loyal to the company but, as a member of Works Committee, also act as a strong bridge between management and workers of entire unit. OC is one of the leading apparel exporters of India and Archana, an MSc in Botany and MBA in HR & Marketing, has been working with the company for more than a decade. She had the opportunity to represent OC in terms of workers’ well-being and CSR at many brands.

Archana Tomar Mann, VP, Compliance, CSR, Training & Development Orient Craft (OC)
Archana Tomar Mann, VP, Compliance, CSR, Training & Development Orient Craft (OC)

In today’s times, it’s very important to understand the needs and concerns of workers who constitute the backbone of an apparel factory. Any thriving organisation needs to realise this and invest significantly in improving the welfare of the workers, so as to develop and sustain a productive and quality workforce. Safety of the workers, committee formation, food, transportation and providing minimum wage are some of the norms in our industry and every company is expected to provide the same to its workforce but nowadays, it is something beyond that is required.

Major committees

  • Works Committee
  • Health and Safety Committee
  • Internal Complaint Committee
  • Canteen Committee
  • Grievance Handling Committee

So here comes the role of capacity-building programs like workplace cooperation, POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) and HERrespect which help to strengthen the workers committees like Works Committee and Internal Complaint (IC) Committee. I would like to mention here about Workplace Cooperation Program (WCP), an initiative by Gap Inc., and primarily focus on improving workplace cooperation and communication between workers and management and help to drive continuous improvement in the workplace. The program is delivered in the form of eight modules of training to the bipartite committee members. All WCP modules are created to provide necessary basic skills and knowledge for management and worker representatives in the bipartite committee to promote sound industrial relations. In the year 2016, Gap Inc. had started WCP pilot project with one of our Gurgaon-based facilities and now, we have expanded the program to our three facilities and will soon be implementing it in our Gap-approved six facilities for which the trainers have already undergone the trainers program conducted by Gap Inc.

Every committee has normally 20 members with equal representation from workers and management (those involved in decision making) and such committees conduct monthly meetings to discuss various issues.

This program has really helped us to enhance dialogue and cooperation between workers and management to drive sound industrial relations. Recently we organised a graduation ceremony for our two units in Noida and Gurgaon for the first phase of the program. Parvez Alam, Quality Checker and one of the committee members stated, “We feel a sense of pride and accomplishment that we are able to help our fellow workers.”

Recently Keith White, EVP, Loss Prevention and Global Sustainability and Kapil Mathur, Director-Global Sustainability from Gap Inc. with other team members attended the WCP Graduation ceremony at Orient Craft’s Noida unit

We are also running programs like POSH (supported by Gap Inc. and NEXT), HERrespect (currently running in Noida by American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) and have completed HERrespect in Chopanki, Rajasthan by M&S) which have helped us to build harmonious relationship at workplace and made our IC committee effective by strengthening the workplace system in addition to helping us raise awareness about POSH among workers.

Sustainability team from NEXT has also trained and upgraded our works and IC committee members. Over the years, apart from the factories, even brands’ engagement with workers has increased tremendously. Now both factories and brands work hand in hand to ensure the sustainability of workers’ well-being programs and even the brands’ senior leadership teams interact with the workers to ensure proper functioning of capacity-building programs and its sustainability. Investing in committee members pays dividends in terms of better workplace cooperation, confident workers and greater loyalty. Such programs help in keeping high the morale and motivation of the employees so as to retain the employees for a longer duration. It helps the workers to give their best each day, committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisation’s success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being. In OC, this is how we create the conditions which helps workers offer more of their capability and potential. However, a great deal still needs to be done.

Challenges:

Earlier management and workers never shared their concerns openly with each other due to lack of communication and power dynamics. Therefore, we counselled the works committee members that everyone is equal at this platform (irrespective of their designation), and as a result of this the works committee representatives now share their concerns and suggestions openly, which has helped us in breaking the ice between worker and management representatives.

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