August 2021: Approximately 2.5 – 3.2% of the population have been fully vaccinated, with priority given to the elderly and those with comorbidities.
June 2021: The Ministry of Health (MINSA) of the Nicaraguan Government began to apply the Astrazeneca Covishield vaccine. Nicaragua has imported batches of Sputnik V vaccine.
Spring 2021: The government of Nicaragua has not declared lockdown and institutions from government agencies and public schools have remained open.
A year has passed since a tripartite agreement was developed by the National Tripartite Free Trade Zone Commission to address the Covid-19 health emergency (March 2020). The recommendations continue to affect workers and businesses. The agreement recommends companies take several measures to avoid the spread of Covid-19:
Grant work permits with percentages of wages
Grant vacations in advance
Reduce working hours (including working days)
Carry out work activities remotely or introduce teleworking
Perform temporary suspensions of the employment contract (under the Article 38 C.T)
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.
Factory Service Update
August 2021: All active Better Work partner factories are in full operation, implementing COVID-19 prevention protocols. 100% of these families have received at least one Virtual Compliance Check (VCC). 40% of the factories have also received at least one virtual training in 2021; 70% have received a virtual training since April 2020.
All core services have been provided virtually without interruption since April 2020.
June 2021: Of 24 factories enrolled in Better Work Nicaraguan Program, one of the factories closed operations in the country and the closing process was monitored by the Ministry of Labor and the Union Confederations in the Country: which represented the loss of approximately 1,200 jobs in the garment sector. The Better Work Core Services (Assessment, Advisory and Training), continue being delivering to the factory virtually as face-to-face factory services are temporally suspended until further notice.
April 2021: Of the 25 factories enrolled in Better Work Nicaragua Program, the pandemic forced 10 Better Work factories to close; some for only two weeks, while others were closed for up to three months, impacting some of the 13,900 workers at different times. One factory remained closed throughout and its 895 workers are still furloughed. Face-to-face factory visits, including assessments, are temporally suspended until further notice. Advisory and training services remain in place and are being delivered to factories virtually, including virtual trainings about use of PPE (personal protective equipment), the handling of chemical substances, as well as HIV/AIDS prevention. There is also ongoing OSH (occupational safety and health) training focusing on use of masks and other biological protocols for COVID-19 prevention.
The primary focus in supporting factories through advisory services are COVID-19 prevention issues, improvement plans, following up on repetitive noncompliance findings to avoid recurrence, conducting preventive consultations, 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.
Additional Better Work Activities
June 2021: The implementation of the POSH Program, an initiative to act on sexual harassment prevention, has started. This initiative is a partnership with Gap Inc. Currently, four factories have registered to the POSH program. The first training was the TOT of Sexual Harassment Prevention was carried out for some 33 participants, including workers’ representatives, management representatives, social compliance staff and HR staff.
Better Work Nicaragua has aided partner factories in developing and implementing safety measures against COVID-19 including:
Taking the temperature of all workers upon entering the factory
Universal use of face masks for all workers
Provision of alcohol-based hand sanitizer to all workers in the main entrance of the factory
Consistent awareness-raising of COVID-19 prevention and education through factory loud-speaker systems
Regular prevention training
Fumigation of external vehicles, canteens and factory premises.
Providing online learning opportunities, including a management course on Human Resources and Occupational Safety and Health in the context of COVID-19
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).