Around 2 million Syrians of working age between 19 and 64 live in Turkey. Only 3 percent of them worked with a work permit in 2020, according to statistics by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. A large proportion of Syrians in Turkey are employed in the informal sector, which makes them highly vulnerable to social risks: illicit work, unhealthy and inhumane working conditions, discrimination and abuse, wages below the legal minimum, excessive working hours, and lack of social benefits.
For this reason, the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles, together with several Partnership members supports a contact point and grievance mechanism provided by the MUDEM Refugee Support Center (MUDEM), a Turkish NGO. Through a website maintained by MUDEM, Syrian textile workers in Turkey receive legal advice and can report abuses in the workplace. MUDEM employees then contact the workers to assist them and discuss solutions. The remedial process focuses on cooperation with the companies and suppliers involved to develop improvement plans and corrective measures.
As this process involves a local NGO, it allows all parties to address local challenges within the cultural context. By providing information and support to those affected in different languages – Turkish, Arabic and Farsi – the mechanism is particularly accessible. Cooperation partners regularly exchange best practices as well as the challenges they face. Collaborative activities are planned together with MUDEM, including workers’ rights training.
The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) financially supports the MUDEM Worker Support Center until April 2023. Together with the Secretariat of the Partnership, the fashion retailers are however committed to establishing the grievance mechanism in the long term. Currently, around 1,000 factories with approximately 200,000 workers are part of the program.