Industry Update/National Response
- Of the 26 factories enrolled in Better Work Nicaragua, two factories have currently suspended production, two factories have reduced staff, and one factory is closing operations on 21 July.
- As of mid-July, an estimated 3,035 workers have been laid off throughout the sector.
- Among the 35,000 workers employed in the sector, approximately 3,800 workers are currently suspended as of late July, down from over 7,000 workers in suspension in previous weeks.
- On March 24, a tripartite agreement was developed by the National Tripartite Free Trade Zone Commission, in the face of the COVID-19 health emergency. It recommends companies take several measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19: 1) grant work permits with percentages of wages; 2.) grant vacations in advance; 3) reduce working hours (including working days); 4. carry out work activities remotely or teleworking; 5) perform temporary suspensions of the employment contract under the Art. 38 C.T; . 6) use any other good practice that the company considers convenient, always with workers agreement, such as the advances of severance payment, food packages and others. In the cases of workers over 60 years of age, pregnant women, and high-risk workers with chronic diseases, all work interruptions will receive full salary.
- The government has not declared quarantine measures, and government institutions and schools remain open.
Factory Service Update
- Factory visits including assessments are suspended until 30 July.
- Advisory and training services are delivered to factories virtually, including virtual training about use of PPE, including face masks, and proper handling of chemical substances. At the time of training, the number of workers is limited to no more than 10 people in the same room. All are required to wear masks and keep one meter of distance from each other.
- An Excel-based tool has been developed for PICC members to assess COVID-19 risk at the factory. The tool allows committee representatives to enter key information and to analyse results using simple graphics and key performance indicators. Members are able to quickly and easily understand if a high risk is present.
- As part of the virtual advisory, WhatsApp groups of the Improvement Advisory Committees (PICC), consisting of representatives of workers and management, are being developed. We have 3 Whatsapp groups interacting and 6 potential Whatsapp groups that will be working in the next two weeks.
- Support to factories through advisory services focuses on COVID-19 prevention issues, improvement plans, follow-up of recurring non-compliance findings, self-diagnosis processes, and preparation of the first and second progress reports. As part of the virtual advisory, WhatsApp groups of the Improvement Advisory Committees (PICC), consisting of representatives of workers and management, are being developed.
Additional Better Work Activities
- Communication awareness materials such as posters, audio bulletins, and a video on the prevention of the COVID-19 were distributed in all factories enrolled in the programme. Factories began to post these communication awareness materials for workers.
- The final session of “Implementation of Human Resources and Hygiene and Safety Management Systems,” was held June 27, capping the four-week specialized course largely delivered by videoconference. The course had tripartite participation from union leaders, Ministry of Labour representatives, and participants from factories nominated by ANITEC (Garment Nicaraguan Association). Other participants included human resources managers, compliance managers, OSH managers, legal advisors of the factories, among others. The course provided tools to promote best practices for human resource management and OSH Management systems and indicators.
- All Nicaragua Better Work factories are implementing safety measures against COVID-19 including: 1) temperature measures of all workers upon entering the factory; 2) universal use of facemasks for workers; 3) provision of alcohol-based hand sanitizer to all workers in the main entrance of the factory; 4) consistent awareness-raising of COVID-19 prevention and awareness through factory loud-speaker systems; 5) prevention training; and 6) fumigation to external vehicles, canteens and factory premises.Some additional safety measures are being implemented, such as cleaning shoes with chlorine before entering the factory and scheduling lunch breaks at staggered intervals.
- A tool for risk assessment in the garment sector is being developed together with PICC worker and management members to equip them to self-assess their vulnerability and level of preparedness for the prevention and mitigation of COVID-19.
- Better Work is developing guidance for socially responsible transition in line with Nicaraguan legislation. The document refers to temporary closure processes, termination of contracts, reduction of personnel, and suspension processes, among other topics. A presentation and accompanying document will ensure factories have a tool to guide such potential processes stemming from COVID-19.