SA8000 standard gets new lookJune 2008
One of the most widely used corporate responsibility standards has been made more explicit after a two-year revision.
The SA8000 workplace standard, used by major brands to improve conditions in their own and in supplier factories, now includes clearer requirements on working hours, overtime and freedom of association. Some flexibility has been added on hours and discipline, provided a freely negotiated collective bargaining agreement allows for it.
Social Accountability International (SAI), the multi-stakeholder non-governmental organization that created the standard in 1997 and last revised it in 2001, says the upgrade was needed to cover new practices and remove parts with loose wording that some employers had exploited.
The revised standard adds a clause to the provision on discrimination outlawing any prejudice against workers on grounds of marital status or family responsibilities and also specifies that pregnancy testing is discriminatory.
Other new clauses state that:
staff are to be permitted to leave their workplace after completing a standard working day
companies must not interfere with the establishment or functioning of worker organizations
an SA8000 elected worker representative cannot substitute for trade unions
written records must be kept for all workplace accidents
human trafficking ‘or any tolerance thereof’ is expressly forbidden.
The updated standard, coming into full force in January 2010, emphasizes that overtime should be voluntary, not requested on a regular basis, and should be compensated at a ‘premium’ rate. In addition, in countries where a premium rate is not regulated by law, this must be at least equal to the prevailing industry standards.
Morton Winston, a member of the SAI advisory board and chair of the standard revision committee, told EP: ‘We found that the language used in the 2001 version was not really adequate in some cases to prevent certain abuses, so we have been much more explicit about what is expected.’
Workplaces may continue to be certified against the 2001 version until 2010. In the interim SAI will be informing companies, their suppliers, and the public of the new requirements. A summary of the changes and a guidance document will be released later this year.
SA8000 now covers more than 750,000 workers across 62 industries in 62 countries. Italy has the most certified facilities (765), followed by India (237) and China (192). Among the well known companies that apply SA8000 and have numerous certifications at their own facilities and/or along their supply chains are Gap, Tata Motors, Chiquita, Dole, Skanska, Coop Italia, Coop Switzerland, Tata Steel and TNT Express.
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