Our Fair Trade Mill
Our mill is located in Kolkata, India and currently employs over 700 workers. It participates in an active corporate social responsibility (CSR) program designed by Solidaridad, a Belgian non-profit. The partnership showcases how core business principles can be used to alleviate poverty, generate employment, empower women and farmers, improve labor conditions in the supply chain and support practices that protect nature and encourage bio-diversity. We also carry Social Accountability Certification SA8000 by Italian agency RINA and have also been certified by FLO Cert since 2006 to follow ILO labor standards.
Worker Wages, Benefits and Training
Our mill workers receive wages that are approx. 20-50% above the legal minimum wage. Annual and periodic increments are applied to adjust to cost of living with data provided by non-profit organization Prakruthi. Wages include a 10% annual bonus and a 5% housing allowance that subsidizes rent for workers. Training promotes upward mobility and personal growth. Management training is given to ensure a strict policy of non-discrimination, no child labor, dignity and respect in the workplace and to address health and safety issues.
Additional worker benefits include:
- Meal coupons or its cash equivalent to all employees to subsidize up to 65% of meals
- Reimbursement of school fees for all children of workers
- Paid holidays: 14 annual holidays plus 1 paid day off for every 20 days of work
- Overtime paid at double the normal wage
- Medical Insurance plan enrollment to cover all employees and their dependents
- Standards for maternity leave, healthcare and freedom from harassment.
- An interest generating retirement pension fund plan
- Interest-free loans of up to six months wages
- Buses to provide transportation to/from the mill
- An annual eye operation camp where workers and families can get free cataract surgery
A conducive and safe work environment, higher wages, health coverage and social benefits have resulted in a high level of worker satisfaction and low employee turnover of approx. 2% per year.
Worker’s Rights: Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining
The ability to join trade unions is recognized as the most direct pathway to worker empowerment. As a key component of a progressive and fair workplace, our mill respects the right of freedom of association and collective bargaining. Two national trade unions, INTTUC and CITU are active in our mill. About 40% of the workers are represented by the first, 20% by the latter and approximately 40% have chosen to not be affiliated with a trade union. An elected Works Committee is set up at the mill to conduct grievance and redress processes.
Fair Trade Certification Premiums
In 2010, when Fair Trade USA launched Fair Trade Certified Apparel HAE Now Inc. was the first company to be approved under the pilot program, becoming the first source of ‘Fair Trade Certified’ t-shirts in the U.S. As per Fair Trade USA’s criteria, our mill set up a Worker’s Fair Trade Fund bank account and a Fair Trade Committee of workers to manage it. The fund receives 4% of the cost of all ‘Fair Trade Certified’ products sold. These funds serve as additional income to supplement worker’s wages or invest in community needs.
Socially Responsible Business Principles
Our mill has undertaken a leadership role in addressing community issues of poverty and unemployment. There is an on-site skills development center to provide free training in garment production to local youth living below the poverty line. Graduates get a diploma from the government accredited ATDC India which empowers them with career skills.
As part of a progressive CSR policy our mill has also taken steps to include marginalized farmers in the production chain. Our cotton mainly comes from the Chetna Organic Project, a co-op of approx. 6000 small farmers. The co-op owns 10% stake in our mill which allows farmers to participate in the profits. A purchasing commitment between different levels of the production chain all the way to the end consumers instills confidence in the chain, makes it stronger and allows for growth. Our mill contracts with the farmers at the start of the season which enables farmers to get bank loans. We pre-finance up to 30% of the cotton harvest ahead of time, allowing the project to grow.
“ A group of us recently traveled to India to explore the complexities of Fair Trade apparel and organic cotton. I know I am very fortunate to meet the very people who create some of the clothes I wear. I even got a chance to speak with the team member who handled a recent order from Catholic Relief Services.
To those considering business with HAE Now, I can attest that the mill in Kolkata, India is committed to ethical business, safe and dignified working conditions, and improving products and performance for workers and customers. ”
-Jackie DeCarlo, Economic Justice Team Leader CRS Domestic Programs Support Unit
Meet Kalyan, cutting master:
Kalyan Saha was born in a village near New Delhi, India. As the son of a poor tailor, his education was interrupted at the age of 14 when he started working to help makes ends meet. As helper at his uncle’s factory, he earned a dismal salary of Rs. 300 month. He picked up skills quickly and in six years was making Rs. 2,800 month as a cutting master at another garment factory. However, there were many months in the year when he did not receive pay if the factory did not have enough work. With no benefits or health coverage, it was difficult to make ends meet. In 2000, he joined our mill as cutting master in the stitching dept. at a salary of Rs. 3,200 month. For the first time he started to receive a guaranteed wage and benefits that allowed him to support his wife and two school-going children. He now makes Rs. 8,800/month. “Life is so much better,” says an elated Kalyan. “I can support my family. My parents live with me six months in a year. My children are in school and I am glad they will get a good education.” Kalyan was recently elected by his co-workers to serve on the Fair Trade Workers Fund Committee.
“The mill producing HAE Now apparel was the first in the world to be certified under Fair Trade USA’s innovative standards for Fair Trade Certified apparel. I have visited the mill twice and was struck by the management’s commitment to its workers. Certified to SA8000 and GOTS standards, it recognizes the union membership of its workers, and goes above and beyond Fair Trade standards in some areas by offering subsidized meals, housing and education for its workers and their families. I believe HAE Now and their mill are true pioneers committed to the values and practices of Fair Trade.”
-Heather Franzese, Director, Fair Trade USA