Since 2011, Better Work Nicaragua (BWN) has joined with workers, employers and government to improve working conditions and boost the competitiveness of the garment industry in the country.
The Nicaraguan garment industry is worth USD 1.5 billion annually and is one of the most important manufacturing sectors sustaining national income and creating jobs. Since launching in Nicaragua, BWN has grown to cover 70 per cent of the industry’s workforce and 60 per cent of its factories and taken significant steps to improve working conditions in the industry.
Among them are: putting in place a national level tripartite Project Advisory Committee to develop guidelines for the implementation of Better Work; supporting the formation of worker/management committees in factories; and advising national policy makers and developing a capacity-building initiative for union leaders, including leaders at the grass-roots factory level.
To date, BWN has trained or contributed to strengthening the capacities of over 8000 thousand workers, 650 union members, 350 management representatives and 100% of the Labour Inspectors of the country.
Researchers from Tufts University studied the impact of Better Work Nicaragua during five years, and found that significant progress was made during the period from 2011 to 2016.
Some key findings:
Better Work Nicaragua significantly impacts concerns on pay and excessive overtime. After three years in Better Work Nicaragua, workers are less concerned with late payments, low wages and excess overtime.
A greater voice for workers and improvements in dialogue. After three years, workers are more likely to feel comfortable seeking help from their supervisors and no longer believe that joining a union will get them fired.
Training line supervisors, particularly women, pays off in better working relationships and higher productivity. When supervisor trainees improve their skills, and they have support of their managers, Supervisory Skills Training in Nicaragua is demonstrated to lead to more balanced production lines, better workplace relations and higher productivity. Training female supervisors in particular was shown to result in a 22% increase in productivity.
A focus on job quality can positively affect outcomes like education access for workers’ children. At the outset of the programme, 19 per cent of workers reporting having school-aged sons out of school for financial reasons. After one year participating in the programme, there is a decline in the number of workers reporting that their children are not in school due to financial constraints.