However, Ethiopia’s garment industry faces multiple challenges, in particular with regard to productivity, working conditions, industrial relations and social compliance.
To address the challenge in a sustainable manner, the ILO launched an innovative project which is being implemented in Ethiopia’s Oromia, Tigray and South Nations Nationalist and Peoples Regions. It is implemented at the national, regional and enterprise levels.
At the enterprise level, the project strengthens the capacity of employers and workers and their representatives to build sound labour relations for a socially responsible garment and textile industry in Ethiopia. It provided 13 garment factories with capacity building in 12 different topics related to decent work in the textile and garment industry.
Rights and obligations
Those factories reported that due to the existence of properly designed grievance handling procedures, complaints were jointly investigated and handled by workers’ and managers’ representatives. They further reported that most workers had become aware of their rights and obligations, and that the majority of the managers and workers had benefitted greatly from “soft skills” training which had improved their attitudes towards time management, financial matters and the development of a life plan.
Sara Bayssa is a 23-year-old woman, working as a supervisor at one of those factories called Ayka. She has been with the company for almost five years. She started to work as an operator before being promoted to supervisor due to her skills and good work.
“When I started with my new position, I realized being a supervisor is a difficult task. It requires not only to be good at production techniques but also handling and managing workers who are very diverse, at times difficult to understand.,” she said.
However, the training she took made it possible for her to improve the way she manages workers.
Listening to team members
“As a supervisor, I received training to improve productivity and human resource management skills. I see this training as a way to get the additional skills I needed. The training helped me understand the importance of team work which is critical to improve productivity in my factory. Now I know the importance of communication and listening to my team members not only to motivate them but also to meet production target and address quality problems,” she added.
The project also covers work in the area of occupational safety and health. It helped reduce the incidence of occupational accidents in the 13 target factories.
In addition, the programme provided support for the establishment and strengthening of trade unions in the target factories. It also facilitated the establishment of women’s committees to enhance female participation in union leadership structures and collective bargaining agreements.
Alemnesh Assefa. has been working at the GMM factory for the past seven years. She started as a helper. After a three-week training, she got an upgrade to sewing. After three years of service, she became a supervisor. But she is also a member of GMM Trade Union leadership, which was established a year before.
“After I became a union leader, I began to receive trainings. The latest courses on ‘soft skills and gender’ have completely changed my perspectives on my work and life. Those courses lasted three days, but I feel like their effects are going to last with me forever,” she said.
In 2017, the project carried out 143 distinct activities involving more than 2,500 workers, managers as well as Government, trade unions and employers’ organizations.