PSES is a joint project of the governments of Bangladesh and Germany, implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, which works on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), in partnership with the Bangladesh Government. The project is supporting Bangladesh’s garment, textile and leather sectors to increase compliance with national labour and environment laws and international standards to fulfil the commitment towards an inclusive workforce. GIZ observed “ Employing People with Disabilities in the Ready-Made Garments (RMG) Industry” at Posmi Sweaters Ltd. Posmi Sweaters Ltd. is a 100 per cent export oriented factory in Bangladesh with a workforce of 2,000 employees. The sweater factory is located at Gazipur. The workers – 65 per cent male and 35 per cent female – produce mostly sweaters, which are exported to different countries in Europe and America.
Employing People with Disabilities in the Ready-Made Garments (RMG) Industry
“Each and every person with disability has the right to have a decent life. It is the duty of our society to make this possible,” said Md Moshiul Azam Shajal, Managing Director, Posmi Sweaters Ltd. His factory has a long tradition in employing persons with disabilities. In the beginning, they just did it from time to time because they knew it is not an easy task. In 2015, Posmi attended the workshop “Inclusion Matters: Looking Towards 2021”organised by the project ‘Promotion of Social and Environmental Standards in the Industry (PSES). They learned about the advisory services offered by Centre for Disability in Development (CDD) and the function of the Inclusive Job centre (IJC), which is managed by Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP).
The workshop prompted Posmi to address the topic in a structured manner in their factory. From the very beginning, Shajal had been looking for a partner to help him mainstream persons with disabilities in the workforce of his factory. How could disability inclusion initiatives be implemented successfully? How could initiatives be improved?
To start the process professionally, Posmi got in contact with the CDD for advisory services. As a first step, a professional team including an Occupational Therapist and an HR expert from CDD conducted a comprehensive assessment of the factory and reviewed recruitment and selection processes and policies. Based on the assessment, CDD developed an action plan on disability inclusion for Posmi. With technical support from CDD, Posmi progressively implemented the action plan. CDD also trained a management staff member to deal with disability issues and to take advantage of its helpline support.
When an inclusive workplace environment was built in the factory –ensuring barrier free access, providing reasonable accommodation and due changes in the HR policy – Posmi contacted the IJC. The latter assisted Posmi with job matching and job placement for persons with disabilities. Job counsellors from IJC also provided support to boost up confidence of employees with disabilities. Eventually, Posmi recruited seven persons with disabilities through IJC.
Initially, hiring persons with disabilities was considered as a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity. Over time, Posmi found that employees with disabilities are as productive as their non-disabled peers. The performance of employees with and without disabilities is assessed by a software called Industrial Production Engineer (IPE). It showed that workers with disabilities are able to meet production targets and that their productivity is equal to their non-disabled peers. Today, hiring persons with disabilities is seen as wise business choice: “To me workers with disabilities are an asset: With minimum support, they can do miracles,” said Md Moshiul Azam Shajal, Managing Director, Posmi Sweaters Ltd. From 2015 to 2016, the number of employees with disability grew from 8 to 39.
Wa Way Forward
The Posmi management believes that qualified people with disabilities are a unique source of talent who can deliver substantial values to the factory. As a consequence, the factory has set a five per cent recruitment quota for persons with disabilities. To attract and mainstream people with disabilities into its workforce, Posmi has incorporated the following statement in the job advertisement: “We encourage applications from people with disabilities and from economically underprivileged background.” The factory also took part in the Disability Job Fair, jointly organised by Jatiyo Protibondhi Unnayan Foundation (JPUF) and Ministry of Social Welfare, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, in May 2016.
Three measures are designed to ensure that disability inclusion becomes a sustainable part of the factory’s policies and practices: Posmi is progressively implementing the disability action plan provided by CDD, Posmi is applying universal design to ensure accessibility in another factory (“Fame”) yet to go for full-fledged production, and Posmi intends to recruit persons with disabilities for management positions.
For more information- Farah Rahman, Junior Advisor-Communication, PSES, E [email protected]