Industry Update/National Response
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. The agreement 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 introduce teleworking
5) Perform temporary suspensions of the employment contract (under the Article 38 C.T)
6) Use any other good practice that the company considers convenient, always with the workers’ agreement, such as the advances of severance payment and food packages. In the cases of workers over 60 years of age, pregnant women, and high-risk workers with chronic diseases, all workers will receive full salary despite interruptions.
- Of the 26 factories enrolled in Better Work Nicaragua, one factory has currently suspended production and has a temporary close in July 31st, 2020; three factories have reduced staff and one factory closed operations definitely on July 21st, 2020.
- 2308 workers were laid off in total.
- The summary of the number of workers in suspension, working and laid-off is the following:
|Type of suspension||Workers|
|Total on annual leave:||0|
|Total on suspension:||0|
|Total on reduced working days||0|
|Total laid-off workers||2308|
|Total currently working||30,549|
- The government has not declared lockdown and institutions from government agencies and public schools continue to remain open.
Factory Service Update
Factory visits, including assessments, are temporally suspended until further notice (We depend on ILO approval to safely return to our offices).
- Advisory and training services remain in place and are delivered to factories virtually, for example, virtual trainings about use of PPE (personal protective equipment) and the handling of chemical substances and HIV AIDS Prevention Training were delivered to our factories. There is also ongoing OSH (occupational safety and health) training focusing on use of masks for Covid-19 prevention.
- The training aims to provide basic conceptual tools to workers for the use of PPE, emphasizing the correct use of masks, because of their importance in providing respiratory protection, a basic precaution for Covid-19 prevention. At the time of training, workers are asked to gather in groups of no more than 10 people in the same room, to wear masks and to keep 1 meter of distance from each other.
- The primary issues in supporting factories through advisory services are regarding Covid-19 prevention issues, improvement plans, following up on repetitive findings to avoid recurrence, conducting preventive consultancies, guiding self-diagnosis processes and preparing first and second progress reports, which now include a section on the measures being taken to prevent Covid-19.
- As part of the virtual advisory, WhatsApp groups of the Performance Improvement Consultative Committee (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.
|Better Work Nicaragua – Virtual interventions (From May 5th to October 13th)|
|Type of virtual intervention||Number of interventions||Main topics covered||Planned interventions for October 2020|
|Virtual advisory visits include PICC meetings and advisory visits with management||69||Improvements, update
Covid-19 prevention actions, monitoring
improvement plan review
Support for Progress Report to the factories
|Calls to the factories for follow up Covid-19 prevention plans, courses of UNI (National University of Engineering), reviewing the suspensions process, reporting deadlines||94||Covid-19 prevention,
follow up courses of UNI
|Virtual training sessions||15||PPEs (focused on respiratory protection)
chemical safety and VIH prevention, SHP, PICC Training
Additional Better Work Activities
All Better Work Nicaragua factories are implementing safety measures against Covid-19 including:
1) Taking the temperature of all workers upon entering the factory
2) Universal use of face masks for all 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 education through factory loud-speaker systems
5) Regular prevention training
6) Fumigation of external vehicles, canteens and factory premises.
7) Providing online learning opportunities, including a management course on Human Resources and Occupational Safety and Health in the context of Covid-19
8) Creating a new assessment tool for factories
Some additional safety measures are being implemented such as cleaning shoes with chlorine before entering the factory (“pediluvios,” or foot baths), and the factories are also providing more effective masks to the workers.
- An Excel-based tool was developed for PICC members to assess their Covid-19 risk at the factory level. Even though the tool is only available in Spanish currently, the tool will be translated to English to be shared with other Better Work program countries globally. The idea is to understand and adjust the numbers to find a key performance indicators (KPI) in the final tab (your score). The simple graphics and KPI are for the committee representatives to quickly and easily understand if there is a high risk and to serve as a general assessment. The document has feedback for specialists from the ILO advising on the project. This tool has been helpful for promoting the social dialogue in the factories and also the prevention of Covid-19 in the factories.
- Further, our course on Specialization of Human Resources and OSH Management Systems began on June 2nd virtually, with the attendance of 42 managers from the factories and stakeholders, as part of our “Building Bridges Process,” and it is being delivered by the National University of Engineering (UNI) through its instructors, using the Zoom platform.
The course has a tripartite participation: there are three participating union leaders, three Ministry of Labour representatives, participants from factories nominated by ANITEC (Garment Nicaraguan Association), and the remaining participants are primarily human resources managers, compliance managers, OSH managers and legal advisors. This course promotes open dialogues, and participants are very active. Thus far, those enrolloed have expressed that the course is providing useful tools to better understand Human Resources and OSH management systems and indicators.
The course is mainly aimed at HR and hygiene and safety managers, middle managers and factory owners, among others, who need to know and interpret the results of the management systems through performance indicators, from their design, development and implantation.
After four intense weeks of the course, on June 27, the last session was held. Participants rated the course very positively. Many of the comments indicated that what they valued the most was having received practical tools that they can apply from now on in their jobs, and thus, improve their management. They requested that Better Work continue to develop more training activities.
- In late May, we conducted a webinar on prevention measures of the Covid-19 for the textile and clothing industry, organized by Better Work Nicaragua and taught by a specialist from UNICEF Nicaragua, as part of the United Nations interagency alliance.
This webinar offered advice and support to factories in the textile sector in Nicaragua, union representatives and private sector, to address Covid-19 prevention and control measures in the workplace, exploration and clarification of doubts and myths and overall good practices.
32 people attended the webinar (representatives of the Ministry of Labour, ANITEC, Human Resources and OSH Managers, as well buyer representatives including Nike, Next Level and Gap and the Better Work Nicaragua team).
- A presentation and a document were developed for socially responsible transitioning, appropriate according to the Nicaraguan legislation, specifically referring to temporary closure processes, termination of contracts, reduction of personnel and suspension, among others issues, so that the factories have a tool to guide them in these processes, which are a consequence of the pandemic. The translation of this document is currently being prepared.
- Communication awareness materials such as posters, audio bullets and a video on the prevention of the Covid-19 were created and distributed in all factories enrolled in the program. The factories began to post these communication awareness materials on the walls for workers to read about and better understand symptoms and prevention measures of Covid-19.
- Sexual Harrassment Prevention (SHP) training of four hours was delivered to a key factory, developed by our Sexual Harassment Prevention Committee and integrated by workers and managers, providing tools and example about how to recognize SHP cases and how to prevent them and remediate.
A SHP training of two hours was delivered for two Nicaraguan Enterprise Advisors to factories from Haiti, as part of an ongoing collaboration between Nicaragua and Haiti. This training was about basic concepts of SHP, grey areas in SHP, identification of cases of sexual harrassment in the factories, classification of these incidents, and finally, prevention and remediation.
The Enterprise Advisor prepared a new tool to follow up on compliance points during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis based on our Compliance Assessment Tool (CAT).
Better Work Nicaragua developed a Webinar to our factories on August 27th, 2020, about Sexual Harassment Prevention. The Webinar was very participative and the factories learned more about Sexual Harassment concept ant types. The number of participants was 42 people and they were Compliance Managers, Human Resources Managers, OSH Managers and Union Leaders.
The National University of Engineering (UNI) through the Faculty of Industry Technology began on Saturday October 3 the Specialized Course “Evaluation of Industrial Hygienic Risks”, which is promoted and financed by the Better Work Program for labor inspectors of MoL.
The objective of the Course is: “To develop skills and knowledge that generate guidelines for the elaboration and analysis of industrial hygiene evaluations of physical and biological factors”.
Labor inspectors will be trained for the implementation, monitoring and adaptation of industrial hygiene risk assessments to companies based on the analysis of contexts, costs and opportunities of:
-Knowledge and application of occupational hygiene management models.
-Management of methodological instruments for the evaluation of occupational risks and continuous improvement.
-Management of the instruments for monitoring and evaluating the results obtained through internal and external auditing processes.
-Develop the ability to advise companies to reduce industrial hygiene factors (lighting, noise, temperature and mainly biological factors).