Industry Update/National Response
- As of March 30, 2021, the government of Nicaragua has not declared lockdown and institutions from government agencies and public schools have remained open.
- A tripartite agreement was developed by the National Tripartite Free Trade Zone Commission to address the Covid-19 health emergency (March 2020). The agreement recommends companies take several measures to avoid the spread of Covid-19:
- Grant work permits with percentages of wages
- Grant vacations in advance
- Reduce working hours (including working days)
- Carry out work activities remotely or introduce teleworking
- Perform temporary suspensions of the employment contract (under the Article 38 C.T)
- Use any other good practice that the company considers convenient, always with the workers’ agreement, such as the advances of severance payment and food packages. In the cases of workers over 60 years of age, pregnant women, and high-risk workers with chronic diseases, all workers will receive full salary despite interruptions.
Factory Service Update
- Of the 25 factories enrolled in Better Work Nicaragua Program, the pandemic forced 10 Better Work factories to close; some for only two weeks, while others were closed for up to three months, impacting some of the 13,900 workers at different times. One factory remained closed throughout and its 895 workers are still furloughed.
- Face-to-face factory visits, including assessments, are temporally suspended until further notice.
- Advisory and training services remain in place and are being delivered to factories virtually, including virtual trainings about use of PPE (personal protective equipment), the handling of chemical substances, as well as HIV/AIDS prevention. There is also ongoing OSH (occupational safety and health) training focusing on use of masks and other biological protocols for COVID-19 prevention.
- The primary focus in supporting factories through advisory services are COVID-19 prevention issues, improvement plans, following up on repetitive noncompliance findings to avoid recurrence, conducting preventive consultations, guiding self-diagnosis processes and preparing first and second progress reports, which now include a section on the measures being taken to prevent COVID-19.
Additional Better Work Activities
- Better Work Nicaragua has aided partner factories in developing and implementing safety measures against COVID-19 including:
- Taking the temperature of all workers upon entering the factory
- Universal use of face masks for all workers
- Provision of alcohol-based hand sanitizer to all workers in the main entrance of the factory
- Consistent awareness-raising of COVID-19 prevention and education through factory loud-speaker systems
- Regular prevention training
- Fumigation of external vehicles, canteens and factory premises.
- Providing online learning opportunities, including a management course on Human Resources and Occupational Safety and Health in the context of COVID-19
- Creating a new assessment tool for factories
- Some additional safety measures are being implemented such as cleaning shoes with chlorine before entering the factory (“pediluvios,” or foot baths).
- An Excel-based tool was developed for PICC members to assess their Covid-19 risk at the factory level. The tool is only available in Spanish currently, and the tool will be translated to English to be shared with other Better Work programme countries globally. The idea is to understand and adjust the numbers to find a key performance indicators (KPI) in the final tab (your score).
- Communication awareness materials such as posters, audio bullets and a video on the prevention of the Covid-19 have been created and distributed in partnership with UNICEF to all factories enrolled in a COVID-19 prevention webinar series.
- BWN has promoted capacity building through various activities, working in collaboration with Nicaragua’s Ministry of Labour (MOL), such as the ongoing partnership to create a new framework to develop a standardized labour inspection tool. As part of this, BWN funded six criteria evaluation workshops involving input from almost all of Nicaragua’s active labour inspectors.
- In partnership with Gap, Inc., BWN developed the POSH methodology (Prevention of Sexual Harassment), a training programme covering topics such as gender equality, sexual harassment and victim support. In addition, the POSH programme offers coaching for factory management on their existing policies and procedures to deal with cases of sexual harassment. Nicaragua began implementing POSH after a kick-off workshop in Guatemala in September 2019, which reached 75 suppliers across Central America. During the pandemic conditions, BWN adapted the POSH training to a virtual platform, and this is how it is currently delivered.