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Sub contracting in manufacturing facilities – Production improvement or avenues for unethical practices?

By: KT Ramakrishnan (ktramakrishnan@wrapcompliance.org)
Jan 8
Manufacturing scenario across the globe is undergoing sea changes- what with amazing technological advancement, design novelties, raw material innovations and so on. But at the same time manufacturers are faced with fierce competition, pricing and delivery pressures. Faced with such a situation, subcontracting is an option frequently used by facilities. This is especially true for labor intensive industries like Ready Made Garment sector. However, subcontracting process itself is not devoid of problems and this becomes quite evident during social audits. WRAP addresses specifically this issue as a requirement under Principle 1. Further as a guidance to the facilities, WRAP introduced Self-Assessment questionnaire section 1.9 to 1.12.
 
Sub contracting process was debated several times at meetings and conferences.
Each time new issues cropped up. This article provides information on some of the subcontracting practices, urging the facilities to pay special attention, in order to comply with WRAP certification requirements.
 
Underlying principle of WRAP is obedience to Law of the nation.  In this context how do manufacturers, goes on complying with these issues?  A first step approach would be to clearly understand the laws regarding subcontracting and effectively address the following :
 
  -What are the applicable laws?
  -Are these complied?
  -Do we have migrant laborers?
  -Are their rights satisfactorily provided?
  -Is there any exploitation vis- a- vis  social benefits?
  -Is there any issue on Health and Safety?
  -Are the wage payments done on time?
  -Are there any worker suggestions or complaints?
 
If the above are satisfactory, one may assume that basically a system is in place to oversee the subcontracting process.
There may be generalist problems such as overtime, discrimination, harassment, etc. This is where the WRAP principles come to help.  Adopt, Deploy and Monitor periodically.  
 
Given below are some of the situations that manufacturers need to carefully consider, should any of it is encountered.
 
a) Marriage contract (Sumangali scheme as it is known locally in Tamil Nadu, India)
 
b) A couple (husband and wife) being hired to work:  Prima facie one does not find anything wrong, except when looking into the wage payments, health and safety provisions provided and so on.
 
c) Migrant laborers:  Workers migrate looking for jobs.  Facilities to ensure attention to the health and safety, minimum wages and satisfactory working conditions for the migrant laborers. 
 
d) Avoiding social security benefits:  WRAP expects manufacturers to comply with all legal requirements to be followed.
 
e) Class and caste based employment:  Management commitment is essential to address this issue.
 
f) Political interventions: Some uses their political influence to circumvent the Laws.
 
g) Unplanned production Schedules – This issue need to be addressed by discussions with the buyers and brain storming among Senior Management in general.
WRAP hopes that all the manufacturers will be benefited by the implementation of an effective Social management system for their work place with improved productivity and employee satisfaction. 
 
As per the Indian mythology, Lord Krishna exhorts:
“It is not the evil doers and their misdeeds that create societal crime and suffering; but the inaction of good men, their ineffectiveness, indifference and consciously being unaware of the happening around them”
 
We have the choice and power.  Let us act upon it.
 
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