|Low-Cost Ways of Improving Working Conditions: 100 Examples from Asia (ILO, 1989, 190 p.)|
|CHAPTER III: WELFARE FACILITIES FOR WORKERS|
Enterprise-based welfare services not only include directly work-related services, but also those aimed at amenities for everyday life outside working hours. They include child care facilities, recreational facilities and transport. What an enterprise can do in these respects may be limited, but these facilities, if available, can greatly help create the feeling that management is interested in the workers as people. In fact, not only large enterprises but also many small and medium-sized enterprises provide these facilities in various forms.
As an example of such facilities available at very low cost, recreational facilities may be mentioned. Many workers enjoy spending their time in sports or other recreational activities during their lunch break or after work. This is healthy and increases the spirit of friendship. It helps workers feel that they are attached to the enterprise and have common interests as fellow workers. Recreational facilities are often very inexpensive. A basketball hoop or volleyball net in a courtyard, or board games, may be all that is necessary. Smaller enterprises can benefit perhaps even more from these facilities as a greater proportion of the workers can participate.
Dormitories, child care facilities and transport may be provided depending on the number of workers, the location, the work schedule and other factors. They can effectively support the recruitment of workers, especially when these are not readily available.
Special care must be given to the quality of these facilities. Child care facilities should be clean, hygienic and well-ventilated. When transport facilities are provided through better co-ordination with public transport, private bus services or otherwise, they should be adequate and safe.
Case 95: Sports facilities utilising available space
In a foundry which employed 30 workers in the Philippines, a high turnover rate among predominantly young male workers was a problem. It was attributed to the work climate and monotonous conditions during breaks. This became clear when a production supervisor interviewed workers about the reason for the rapid turnover. The average length of employment was only four months, implying a turnover rate of 300 per cent a year. Both past and present workers suggested setting up recreational facilities.
At a meeting, it was decided to provide a basketball court and a pingpong table. This could be done easily as space was available within the foundry premises. All personnel were urged to participate in the activities during work breaks.
The total cost for the construction of the court, the table and equipment was estimated to be US$ 67. The recurring cost is estimated at US$ 25 per year for equipment replacement and repairs.
As a result, the turnover rate reduced remarkably. In fact, it was no longer a problem. Better relations between management and workers also resulted from this joint activity. An improvement in worker motivation was observed. Savings in training costs for new workers and in recruitment advertisements, estimated at US$ 400 a year, more than offset the required cost.
Figure 138: Table tennis corner with a table and equipment.
Figure 139: Basketball court inside the factory premises.
Case 96: Board games
In a furniture manufacturing shop at the rear of a large market in the metropolitan area in the Philippines, 27 workers were employed. They were mostly male. Nine out of these 27 preferred to stay in the factory during weekdays as they resided 10-30 kilometres away from the factory. They went home during weekends. By living within the factory premises, they were able to save on transportation time and expenses. To while away the time, they often played cards, gambled or drank liquor. Noise at night and quarelling often affected the quality of work on the following day. The work climate was also affected.
To improve the work climate, the owner bought a pingpong set and requested the residing workers to make a pingpong table. This was done in one day. In addition, these workers made an improvised billiards set and table. The two facilities immediately became prevailing leisure activities. The owner's son and daughter also joined in.
Figure 140: An improvised board game facility.
The direct cost incurred was US$ 10 for the pingpong set bought by the owner. Materials used for building the pingpong table and the improvised billiards were from surplus wood and wood cuttings in the factory. The estimated cost was about US$ 10 for these materials. Thus the direct cost totalled US$ 20. Indirect costs included the carpenters' time during regular working hours.
After setting up these facilities, the workers co-operated in a move to avoid trouble at night. Card playing and drinking were minimised when the workers started using the available game facilities to pass their time. Relations between management and workers also improved as workers were appreciative of the efforts for their welfare. An unexpected indirect effect was an increase in productivity by about 10 per cent.
Case 97: A reading corner
Very few rest areas were available for workers at a garment factory in Thailand with 700 workers. The management discussed the possibility of providing adequate rest areas for the workers. One of the ideas proposed setting up a reading corner in the company's air-conditioned reference document room. This suggestion was immediately adopted.
The workers were asked to participate in the reading corner programme. Shelves were provided and tables and chairs were arranged in a corner of the room. Magazines and novels were collected and put on display. Most of them were donated by the workers themselves. The magazines and books were labelled by worker representatives. Any worker could read at the table or borrow reading materials by noting down his or her name in a notebook.
Figure 141: Reading corner with shelves, tables and chairs.
The company did not incur any expenses. The equipment was available from the stock of unused furniture and the books were donated. Though it was not possible to quantify the psychological response of the workers, it was very positive.
In a large jute mill in Burma, the welfare committee decided to set up a library. The workers were requested to contribute a small amount equal to approximately US$ 0.12 each towards capital expenditure for stocking books, magazines and newspapers. The welfare committee undertook the operation of the library by contributing US$ 60 a month from the committee's budget. The management provided maintenance of the library premises and lighting expenses. To be convenient to the first and the second shift workers, the library opened from 10 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. on working days.
Figure 142: Racks in the library and some workers looking for reading materials.
Case 98: Committees to look after recreational facilities
A metal cleaning chemical processing unit in an industrial area in India was located about six kilometres away from the main town. It had about 66 employees. There was a high rate of absenteeism and late arrivals. As a result, the work schedule was often disrupted. This led to low productivity.
The personnel officer undertook detailed inquiries through personal interviews with family members of habitual latecomers. It was revealed that there were no recreational facilities in nearby areas. Some of the employees were inclined to join certain social clubs where they picked up bad habits like drinking or gambling. The officer also felt that the management-labour relations should be improved.
Four committees were formed to look after four recreational facilities. These facilities were provided by the management within the factory premises: a volleyball court; a carom game; a table tennis set; and a reading centre. Each committee was responsible for the day-to-day running of the corresponding scheme. All these facilities were available to the employees free of charge before and after their shift and also during the lunch break. The management staff also joined in the activities.
The direct cost incurred in the purchase of sports goods and games equipment amounted to US$ 660. The recurring expenditure on technical and general interest magazines cost US$ 20 per month.
The committees' work was appreciated by the management, and by workers and their families. The management gained from a decrease in various time losses and the resulting increase in efficiency. The workers enjoyed a variety of leisure activities. Late arrivals were eliminated and there was a drop in absenteeism to a quite reasonable level. The workers' families also welcomed the step as the employees were tempted to join in these recreational activities rather than to go to social clubs for which a substantial amount of money had to be paid. The management exercised strict control in the factory premises so that it was impossible to indulge in gambling or drinking. Thus the living standard of the workers improved. The participation of management staff in recreational activities also had favourable effects on worker-management relations.
Case 99: Provision of a creche
A rubber products moulding plant in Singapore which employed 900 workers, was located several miles from town. Seventy-five per cent of the workers were women. The plant had been affected by a very high turnover rate of its largely female workforce. Many of these workers were young women who resigned as soon as they got married. They said they had no choice, as the worksite was located in a new town and therefore they had no relatives living nearby to care for children.
A personnel officer from the plant consulted with the trade union and individual workers concerning the provision of a creche for babies and young children so that mothers could continue to work. Married women workers were sent a simple questionnaire as to how many pre-school children they had and whether they would like to participate in the scheme for a creche. Upon receiving an encouraging response, the personnel department took action.
A large room within the premises, away from the noisy and dirty sections of the factory, was set aside for the purpose. Furniture, feeding facilities and playroom equipment were provided. Some volunteer women workers with young children were included in a roster so that the women collectively looked after their own young children. The nurse of the plant was asked to give a few training sessions on child care to the volunteers and then to supervise the running of the creche. Each child brought to the creche for the first time was examined by the nurse to make sure that the child did not have any diseases, especially contagious ones. Mothers were allowed to go into the creche only after washing their hands and making sure that they were free from dust and other contaminants.
The direct costs included approximately US$ 500 for whitewashing and painting by the workers themselves, purchase of equipment for preparation and sterilisation of feeding implements, preparation of a corner with sufficient privacy for breast-feeding, a refrigerator and toys. The indirect costs included the time of the nurse and volunteers working to make the creche ready. They were estimated to be about US$ 1,000.
The recurrent direct costs amounted to approximately US$ 300 per month for the 40-50 children using the creche. Recurrent indirect costs included the time of the volunteer workers, but these did not amount to more than two per cent of the total wage bill.
The enterprise saved costs which would otherwise have been spent in advertising, interviews, recruitment and training of new workers because of the previous high turnover. There were also savings because of a lower sickness absence rate. Now mothers did not absent themselves from work to look after their children. It was estimated that the total costs saved equalled the direct costs incurred after less than one year of operation.
Case 100: Transportation for workers
In an industrial company in Singapore located far away from town, a great deal of time was lost because of late arrivals. Buses were provided to pick up workers along designated routes.
In another factory in Singapore, it was found difficult to persuade workers to go on night shift until buses were provided to bring them to and from work.
In an airline office situated about 20 miles from Colombo, the management found their staff were coming late for work, taking leave as often as possible and appeared tired. There were also many errors in their work. Two buses were purchased to bring the workers to and from work. The workers appeared much happier and fitter. Errors were also reduced.
In Bali, an enterprise started a co-operative to enable workers to acquire their own motor-cycles. This proved highly successful and led to a dramatic drop in the number of workers absent or late for work.
Figure 143: A motor-cycle stand in an enterprise in Bali.
In a furniture factory in a remote district of Thailand,
employees faced considerable difficulties as they had to walk to and from work
for quite long distances. A bus was found to be unsuitable, as the employees all
lived away from the main roads. The company arranged with the local bicycle shop
to provide credit to all its employees for purchasing bicycles, standing as
their guarantor. The plant manager also briefed all employees who bought
bicycles on road safety. Bicycle racks in the worksite were also provided by the
company. The employees appreciated this scheme, which provided bicycles for many
who otherwise could never have acquired such convenient transport on their