“Mexico’s Superior Safety and Labor Records Drive Productivity and Profits to Higher Levels”
The news about the April, 2013, tragedy in Bangladesh received worldwide attention. And it should have because 1,129 Bangladeshi garment workers died when the building they were working in collapsed.
Mexican textile plants, though, have superior safety and labor relations records. They are taking the right approach because there is a correlation between safe workplaces that honor promises to pay workers fairly and long-term financial success, according to Drusilla Brown, who represents the International Labor Organization in its efforts to set labor standards at manufacturing plants around the world.
Brown said that companies trying to cut costs by paying workers low wages and forcing them to work long hours are making a mistake in the long run.
“(The International Labor Organization) has found a lot of evidence that better working conditions actually correlate with higher productivity and higher profits,” she said.
According to a U.S. Department of Commerce chart, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, and Cambodia are first, second, third, fourth, sixth and eighth in apparel exports to the U.S. Sandwiched in between those nations in Mexico, which is fifth but was first in 2000 before China became a member of the World Trade Organization in 2001 and then increased its exploitation of cheap labor in the textiles industry. Many Asian nations became more interested in the industry when they saw China’s success.
The Mexican textiles industry, though, is making a comeback because of its superior safety and labor record, according to Lawrence Wollschlager, the President and C.O.O. of contract manufacturer, MFI International.
“We’ve never had a fire, serious accident, or labor strike during the 30 years that MFI has manufactured textiles products in numerous industries for American companies in northern Mexico,” said Wollschlager. “MFI ensures that our workers are completely safe and adheres to Mexico’s safety and labor laws, which are far stricter than the laws in Asia and Bangladesh.”
Mexico’s safety standards include a long list of requirements for manufacturing plants, including emergency exits and stairs, fire-detection and fire-extinguishing safety equipment, mandatory evacuation routes, and safe places for workers. MFI also requires employees to report malfunctions in electrical equipment that could lead to accidents and frequently practices emergency and fire evacuation procedures.
In contrast, an investigation by The New York Times concluded that safety inspections of textiles plants in China, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam are so flawed that “thousands of factories in those countries will no doubt continue to be reviewed through the perfunctory “check the box” audits.”
MFI has proven since 1982 that the International Labor Organization’s conclusion that better working conditions correlate with higher productivity and profits is correct. The company has achieved these objectives by implementing the most rigorous labor and safety standards in the textiles industry, said Wollschlager. Consequently, he added, production at MFI plants has been 100 percent reliable.
Wollschlager noted that MFI offers its American partners numerous other benefits, including high-quality products, costs that are competitive with the costs of the less reliable Asian textiles plants, a location that is so close to the United States that MFI’s lead-time can range from one to six weeks, in a low-risk and ethical business environment.