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Bangladesh Alliance to transition garment worker helpline

By Simone Preuss

Jul 23, 2018

The Bangladesh Alliance for Worker Safety (Alliance) announced in a press release yesterday that it will transition its 24/7 worker helpline Amader Kotha (“Our Voice”) this month together with other initiatives to an independent safety monitoring organisation (SMO) managed in partnership with credible, local partners. This is good news for millions of workers as this means the hotline can be expanded beyond Alliance factories. It is funded by Alliance member brands and a donation by former Alliance independent Chair Ellen Tauscher.

The Amader Kotha Helpline Center is now housed at Phulki,” announced Suraiya Haque, founder and executive director of Phulki, a well-established Bangladesh civil society organization. “We are delighted to continue this enormously beneficial program in collaboration with our project partners, Clear Voice, a project of The Cahn Group, LLC, and LaborLink, recently acquired by ELEVATE, a mobile platform that establishes a two-way communication channel between organizations and their workers.”

The helpline was established by the Alliance in mid-2014 as an empowerment mechanism for workers in Alliance-affiliated factories. As it is confidential, the helpline allows garment workers to address and report issues that otherwise would be difficult to bring up. They can range from emergencies and urgent safety concerns to workplace abuse and wage compensation disputes but also personal issues. According to the Alliance, since inception of the helpline, more than 233,000 inbound calls from workers in over 1,000 factories have been received and more than 80 percent of all substantive issues have been resolved.

Amader Kotha has empowered hundreds of thousands of garment workers to report issues of concern anonymously and without fear of retribution,” commented ambassador Jim Moriarty, executive director of the Alliance. “We are incredibly proud to leave the Helpline as a legacy, and that this important resource will continue, and grow, under the leadership of the Helpline project partners.”

The Alliance also reported that workers in Alliance factories have praised the helpline as having a direct impact on their daily lives. “The helpline allows us to get problems resolved, and our supervisors have started to take our concerns more seriously thanks to it,” said Shahnaz Akter. Md. Kamruzzaman explained how it is used even for personal problems: “A colleague of mine called the helpline to report a fire at a home in his neighborhood, and the helpline got the fire brigade to the scene. The helpline makes factories and our communities safer.”

This shows that workers need to be seen as individuals with their own complex lives and that giving them an outlet where they can address problems - be they related to their work or home lives - will mean a better integration into the workplace and thus better productivity and retention with a particular factory.

“Accessibility and worker trust are essential elements of functioning grievance mechanisms. We’re proud to offer the dynamic technology and analytics platform behind Amader Kotha that gives workers a reliable experience every time they call, and gives brands and factories the data they need to drive improvement,” confirmed Heather Canon, vice president of worker engagement at LaborLink.

“The Amader Kotha Helpline has become a valued asset for all parties,” explained Doug Cahn, president of The Cahn Group and helpline’s global project manager. “Factory managers learn about and fix problems quickly before they escalate. Brands and retailers have confidence that a system is in place to identify and resolve compliance issues without their direct intervention. And workers have a trusted system that they can rely on 24/7 to achieve results.”

More detailed information about call volumes, caller profiles and the types of issues discussed can be found on the website of the Alliance for Worker Safety, bangladeshworkersafety.org.

Photo: Bangladesh Alliance for Worker Safety website