Springfields have partnered with global sports brand Adidas in rolling out mobile grievance systems for factory workers in 32 factories to date across Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Try to imagine: no personal computers, no work email addresses, and sometimes more than a thousand workers. How can the factory management keep all workers informed and updated about any information affecting them? At the adidas Group, they require suppliers to have at least two effective communication channels in place; these could be, as an example, posters on the walls, in person meetings, monthly lunches with the factory’s management.

The presence of an effective communication system in the workplace is one of key performance indicators used to evaluate a factory compliance performance. In an ideal scenario, suppliers’ workers can bring their concerns, grievances or suggestions to the factory management directly. If the problem persists, they can then reach out to the local union representative, if they have one, or as a last resort to the adidas Group through the adidas hotline number that is posted in different areas of the factory, like the canteen.

Our experience tells us that sometimes workers do not feel comfortable in bringing their issues to the attention of the factory’s management. Sometimes, they do not know that they can contact factory management or adidas directly, or that the service is anonymous. In other occasions, they fear retaliation for speaking up about issues.

Basically, the project takes advantage of the fact that the vast majority of factory workers in Indonesia have mobile phones and are active users; through this system, workers can simply send an SMS text message and raise the alarm if they are concerned that their rights are being compromised. The systems can be easily managed by the factory HR or compliance staffs that can promptly investigate the workers concerns. The adidas Group has access to the incoming grievances data; this allows them to monitor and track how factory management handles workers’ grievances and to see immediately if there are any critical issues in a factory. By the way, the system is totally anonymous.

The results are very good: all respondents liked the system and saw it as a useful complimentary communication channel with factory management. It goes without saying that all other direct communication channels such as meetings, trainings and interviews are maintained, and not replaced by the new system.