FTA Lays the Foundation for a Multi-Stakeholder Action Plan to Improve the Protection of Syrian Workers in Turkey
Brussels, 8 March 2017 - The Foreign Trade Association (FTA), in collaboration with Otto Group, El Corte Inglés, ESPRIT and other FTA members and BSCI participants, has launched an initiative to improve working conditions of Syrian nationals in Turkish supply chains. To this end, the organisers brought together influential stakeholders to a multi-stakeholder forum in Hamburg early this week, including companies sourcing from Turkey, UN agencies, NGOs, academic bodies, associations and think tanks, to discuss joint solutions and agree on a road map for collective action. The input received will form the basis of a multi-stakeholder action plan the organisers will issue in coming weeks as part of a longer term remedial strategy to address the plight of Syrian workers in Turkish supply chains.
“There is tremendous value in cooperation between business and other stakeholders to go beyond discussion to develop joint action. We are here today because our members understand the power of partnerships and collaboration and remain committed towards ensuring safe jobs in dignified working conditions that respect human rights in Turkey. Despite all our best intentions business cannot tackle the challenges on their own”, said Christian Ewert, Director General of FTA in his opening address. According to current estimates, there are between 250,000 and 400,000 Syrians working in the garment industry in Turkey. However, only around 13,000 work permits have been issued to Syrians in all industries in 2016. "There is still a large informal sector where workers might suffer precarious working conditions and this is a matter of outmost concern for businesses committed to the respect of workers’ rights in their supply chains”, Ewert said.
For local businesses in Turkey, the cost of legally hiring a Syrian worker is well beyond the actual work permit itself, which is about 150 Euros. On top of that, the employer is required to translate all documents and signs in the factory into a language the worker can read and to provide training in the worker’s language. While these are essentially reasonable measures, this effectively means that hiring even a few foreign workers incurs significant overhead costs. “Going beyond 1st tier suppliers pose the biggest challenges for businesses in Turkey”. Maren Barthel, Corporate Responsibility Manager at the Otto Group added. “The need for stronger engagement and collaboration with partners so that we can deep dive into the supply chains in Turkey to have a coordinated effort to identify any cases of worker exploitation that may not be immediately evident, is quite imperative”, Barthel pointed out.
Prominent experts on migration issues in Turkey such as Dr. Emre Eren Korkmaz (International Migration Institute, University of Oxford), Alpay Celikel (Fair Labour Association) and Pindie Stephen (International Organization for Migration) that participated at the Hamburg Forum discussed ways to tackle this complex challenge. “It is clear that a complex issue like this requires a collaborative effort involving the Turkish government, local business, EU institutions and national and international bodies”, stressed Dr.Korkmaz. “I really appreciate this event led by the FTA and businesses themselves. By initiating such a gathering, FTA created a strategic platform to explore how best internal and external alignment could lead to increased remedial measures on the ground that truly protect the rights and well- being of Syrian workers”.
Following the event, the organisers are now preparing a joint action plan. This key document, to be presented in the coming weeks, will aim to provide a strong basis to guide and influence top-level decision makers towards ensuring the increased protection of Syrian labour rights in Turkey.
The Foreign Trade Association (FTA) is the leading business association of global commerce that promotes the values of international trade and sustainable supply chains. Uniting over 1,900 retailers, importers, brands and national associations, FTA improves the political and legal framework for trade in a sustainable way. FTA provides the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) to support participants to improve working conditions in factories and farms where they source from. Moreover, the association also provides the Business Environmental Performance Initiative (BEPI) to facilitate improved environmental performance in supplying factories worldwide.