Factory HR say healthy workers lead to healthy production
Factory HR Supervisor Sophea cares about the women working in her factory. Since 2014 she has been working with CARE under the Levi Strauss Foundation’s Sewing for a Brighter Future project to improve the wellbeing of her workers. Over this time she has recognised that life skills training, while seemingly irrelevant to sewing garments, is actually having a positive impact on the factory’s production.
One of the areas Sophea has focused on is ensuring young mothers know how to keep themselves – and their babies – healthy. This is important in an industry where approximately 90% of the workforce is female and many are in their 20s. CARE has been training peer educators to conduct short lunchtime sessions on topics like the importance of ante-natal care and danger signs to be aware of during pregnancy.
While CARE improves workers’ understanding, the support of the factory ensures women are able to act upon their new knowledge. Sophea describes the factory’s internal procedures: “We organise meetings with all pregnant workers to promote good ante-natal care and encourage them to go for check-ups at a health centre or NGO clinic,” she says. “We adhere to the labour law with regard to providing up to 3 months of maternity leave for mothers with newborns and providing minimum wage payment both during and after delivery.”
Sophea is convinced of the benefits of improving worker’s understanding about how to stay healthy. “We encourage workers to attend CARE’s training because we acknowledge the benefits of a healthy workforce. Before, there were some women who did not visit the health centre during their pregnancy and continued working until their due date. This resulted in some babies being delivered prematurely and mothers experiencing ongoing health problems. As workers, we noticed that they had poor productivity when returning work as they found it hard to regain their strength.”
Another consequence of supporting women to stay healthy during pregnancy is that this has also impacted operations on the factory floor. “Compared to before we have not had any women having miscarriages while at work this year,” explains Sophea. Previously, she says there had been cases of pregnant women experiencing complications such as heavy bleeding during working hours, which caused a lot of disruption on the line and was very distressing for workers.
Sophea sees a clear correlation between worker wellbeing and the health of their business. CARE hopes that more factories will follow her lead.
These activities are part of Sewing for Brighter Future project, which is funded by the LEVI STRAUSS FOUNDATION.