III. Advisory

III.1 What is Advisory service and how does it work? 

Advisory Service is a tailored approach (on an annual cycle) providing factories with both technical advice and capacity building. A designated Better Work Advisor visits the factory between 6 and 10 times a year, depending on how long the factory has participated in the program and how well it has advanced in the improvement process. The Advisor supports the factory to address critical issues quickly but also encourages managers and workers to address the issues they want to focus on in their enterprise. The goal is to focus on root causes of problems and to find systematic solutions that will be sustainable over the long term. Through advisory services, Better Work helps factories understand and manage risks in the workplace and strengthen their internal problem solving capacity with a strong focus on learning and self-assessment. The programme also ensures that managers and workers create strong communication channels to avoid unnecessary disputes as well as anticipate future risks in advance, which includes establishing and improving mechanisms to address and resolve grievances.

The Performance Improvement Consultative Committee (PICC), which consists of management and elected trade union representatives and/or independent worker representatives, is the central element of the advisory process. By engaging these different actors in discussions on improvements Better Work effectively strengthens social dialogue between management and workers.

During the first year of the advisory cycle, Better Work EAs provide guidance that helps to build trust with the factory and workers, while also prioritizing and addressing non-compliance and other systems issues. In the second year of the cycle, EAs shift toward a coaching role, increasing training services and establishing systems that support sustainable improvement. By the third year of advisory services, EAs should serve primarily as consultants, helping PICCs take ownership of the improvement process, while continuing to strengthen management systems and monitoring success. Throughout the process, EAs conduct follow-up visits and update buyers, through progress reports, about steps factories have taken to address the various issues at their supplier facilities. The pacing of advisory services and improvement activities may vary from factory to factory.

In addition to individual factory-based services, throughout the advisory cycle (in most programmes) Better Work organises thematic quarterly “learning seminars”, which allow groups of factories to come together to share experiences, identify best practices and learn from one another.

 

III.2 Can buyers shadow or join a Better Work Advisory visits to see how it works? 

Better Work is happy for buyers to shadow an Advisory visit to see in more detail how it works. This will need to be at a factory for which the buyer has a relationship, has a signed 3rd party access form, and has registered and paid for the factory reports.

Better Work also encourages buyers to engage in joint Advisory visits where the buyer and Better Work can prepare and work together to reinforce a consistent message to support the factory in making improvements.

Better Work will notify buyers and request support where a factory is not cooperating fully, or making sufficient progress during the Advisory process.

To shadow or arrange a joint Advisory visit please contact the relevant country contact (See Section 1.6).

 

III.3 How often will I get a Report on the Advisory Process? 

Progress Reports which include a detailed Improvement Plan and report progress against each non-compliance, as well as information on the level of cooperation in a factory, the level of social dialogue etc. are released to buyers in Month 5 and Month 11 after the assessment. Buyers are strongly recommended to use these reports to review progress (rather than simply waiting for assessment reports).

The only exception to this is Haiti where assessments take place every 6 months so Progress Reports are issued 5 months after each assessment.

 

III.4 How does our own company CAP fit with the Better Work Improvement Plan? 

Since reducing duplication and ensuring consistent messages/advice to promote sustainable improvements are a goal of the Better Work programme, buyers are requested to use the BW Improvement Plan (IP), rather than issuing their own CAP. If buyers have particular priorities they can communicate these directly to factory management who can put the issue on the agenda during the PICC/joint management worker meeting and get it included or prioritized in the Improvement Plan.

It is very confusing and wastes resources where factories are working to several different CAPs/IPs with different formats, competing priorities and differing timelines.

 

III.5 Can I still interact with my factories if they are participating in Better Work? 

Yes. Better Work is trying to stop duplication of effort and ensure consistency of message/ advice on improvements but is not in any way trying to stop buyers encouraging and engaging their factories on improvements or providing training. To ensure consistency and effective coordination Better Work requests buyers to liaise with the relevant Factory Advisor. For details contact the buyer contact in the appropriate country (See Section I.6).

III.6 How/when will Better Work inform me of problems/issues and what is Better Work’s role? 

Better Work encourages factories to inform buyer directly of particular problems/issues e.g. Food poisoning, mass faintings, etc.  Where the factory fails to do this (and Better Work is aware of the problem), Better Work will inform the buyer within 72 hours.

A different more detailed process is used in the case of Zero Tolerance Issues or strikes. For more detailed information specifically on Zero Tolerance Issues See Section II.8. For more information on strikes, see Section III.7

III.7 What does Better Work do in the event of a strike? 

Better Work promotes social dialogue and sound industrial relations in its strategy to ensure sustainable compliance. While Better Work supports factories in the development of social dialogue and mechanisms to prevent and resolve conflicts, it is beyond the mandate or expertise of Better Work to mediate/advise/help negotiate in the event of a strike.

What Better Work can/will do in the event of a strike is:

  • Encourage the factory to engage relevant actors and follow the appropriate legal process.
  • Provideinformation to the parties on the appropriate state institutions responsible for mediating industrial disputes.
  • Category A Work Stoppages / Strikes: In case of work stoppages that are limited in duration ( 1 day or less) and do not involve the use of violence, Better Work will document the information in the next Progress Report.
  • Category B Work Stoppages/ Strikes: In case of work stoppages that involve the use of violence, go on for multiple days at one factory, or involve multiple factories, illegal or legal strikes, Better Work will ask the factory to proactively inform all registered buyers of any strikes in Category B and provide the factory with guidance on what information they should include as a minimum (e.g. reason for strike, consultations / discussions with workers and their trade unions, duration/number of workers involved, steps being taken etc.).
  • If the factory fails to inform its buyers within 48 hours (assuming Better Work is aware of the strike), Better Work will consult with factory management, trade unions, and PICC worker representatives as appropriate and possible, and provide an assessment of the situation to registered buyers providing whatever information they have available.
  • Normal Advisory visits will be suspended during the strike, should it fall within Category B.
  • During the next Advisory visit Better Work will consult with management and union/worker representatives on the cause of the strike and get an update on the resolution. Again Better Work will encourage the factory to communicate this with their buyers directly but will pass on the information if the factory does not.
  • Better Work will include information on the strike in the next Progress Report.
  • The Advisor will work with the factory to help improve systems to prevent the problem from reoccurring.

Better Work is not usually in a position, due to both resource but also remit/mandate, to carry out special investigations in the event of a strike. Buyers are strongly requested to allow time for social dialogue to take place and not to take punitive action against the factory while this is taking place. They are also requested to ask their suppliers to follow the principles of social dialogue and to enhance worker management committees etc. Buyers should let the factory and Advisor follow the process outlined above. If a buyer needs a special investigation they can use whatever mechanism they would do in any non-Better Work factory but to ensure coordination of effort and consistency of messages etc., are requested to liaise on this first with the factory Advisor. In exceptional circumstances, especially where lives have been lost or under immediate threat, significant violence and/ or property destruction, or strikes that have important national implications and media coverage, Better Work country programmes may activate the Zero Tolerance protocol (as appropriate) and conduct special investigations to ascertain facts and identify issues as a way to facilitate solutions.

In addition to the work in factories Better Work is also working in partnership with other units of the ILO to support national constituents including those responsible for investigating and mediating industrial disputes. For more information on national efforts or processes for dispute resolution please contact the relevant programme (See section I.6)

 

III.8 What does Better Work do to counter or respond in cases of bribery or corruption? 

In order to mitigate against bribery and corruption Better Work has the following systems in place:

  • Staff are inducted and reminded of the need to accept nothing from factories – not even lunch or a lift anywhere.
  • Factories are required to sign an anti-bribery policy when they register for the programme
  • For new factories the anti-bribery policy is referred to in the Opening Meeting

Any attempts at bribery will be:

  • refused by staff with reference again to the policy
  • Immediately reported to BW management
  • Documented in a logbook