A while ago, Vintage Denim Ltd. had a problem. The migration rate of workers was high, thus having negative impacts on production and income. But Nahil Ahmed, Human Resource and Compliance Manager,Vintage Denim Ltd., had an idea. He suggested to Imran Islam Chouwdhury, Managing Director, Vintage Denim Ltd., to recruit persons with disabilities in the factory. Ahmed knew from his previous job experience that the migration rate is incredibly low among persons with disabilities. Choudhury agreed, but Vintage Denim deeply felt the necessity of professional support to ensure scaling up the process.
Vintage Denim came to know about the Inclusive Job Centre (IJC). IJC not only supports persons with disabilities to find suitable trainings and jobs in the Ready-Made Garments (RMG) sector, but also supports factories to recruit persons with disabilities and to provide reasonable workplace adjustments. IJC was established under the roof of Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP) together with Centre for Disabilities in Development (CDD), supported by Promotion of Social and Environmental Standards in the Industry (PSES). Both CRP and CDD are working with PSES to mainstream persons with disabilities in the RMG workforce.
To recruit skilled persons with disabilities, Vintage Denim undertook several measurements. They constructed barrier-free access in the factory premises through CDD and arranged reasonable accommodation near the workplace. Moreover, they also revised their human resource policy and raised awareness of the qualities of persons with disabilities within the factory and among the management. Once the factory was prepared for recruiting persons with disabilities, Vintage Denim got in contact with IJC. With the support of the professional team of IJC, Vintage Denim employs around 100 persons with disabilities today.
Vintage Denim Ltd. is a 100 per cent export oriented woven bottom factory in Bangladesh with a total of 1900 workers. The business volume is 60 million a year, which is increasing day by day. Vintage Denim Ltd. as well as Vintage Apparel are parts of the ABA group, consisting of nine factories in total.
In the beginning, employees of Vintage Denim did not like the idea of having a person with disability as a colleague. This viewpoint has changed after experiencing their remarkable qualities. These days the employees are welcoming persons with disabilities and working side by side. The management even noticed that unit heads are placing demand to include persons with disabilities in their units. The factory is recruiting more persons with disabilities since the overall performance of the factory has improved.
Vintage Denim undertook a survey on the performance of their employees with disabilities with remarkable findings. “We found out that 50 per cent of our employees with disabilities are performing equally to the employees without disabilities, 20 per cent are performing better, and 30 per cent are performing less ”, said Ahmed. They also measured a lower absenteeism and migration rate and learned that persons with disabilities take less and short leaves.
The disability mainstreaming process is replicable for other factories:
Vintage Denim management realised that senior management’s commitment is the first step for an inclusive workforce. Positive attitude of the managers may create ample opportunities for the employment of persons with disabilities. Accessible environment, reasonable adjustment and disability friendly policy will make it possible for any organisation to easily replicate the model.
Building an inclusive environment improves the workplace environment:
Vintage Denim management learnt after recruiting persons with disabilities that they would not migrate from one factory to the next. This created an environment where other workers would stay longer as well.
Costs of inclusion will be reduced if a new factory plans a disability friendly environment from the beginning:
Vintage Denim realised that they could reduce costs if they would include a disability inclusive approach at planning stage; while expanding their factory they will do so in future.
Vintage Denim strongly believes that if they recruit more persons with disabilities, the overall performance of the factory will improve and the migration rate will continue to decline. Thus, they decided to increase the number of persons with disabilities in their workforce. They will provide support in getting assistive devices with consultation of CRP professionals, recruit persons with disabilities for mid-level positions and change the infrastructure in a sustainable manner to create a barrier free and inclusive environment forever. For implementation, they plan to take advice from CDD and CRP. Vintage Denim wants to be a model factory in Bangladesh for an inclusive working environment. The knowledge and techniques about mainstreaming inclusion acquired in Vintage Denim will be transferred to the new factory named Vintage Apparel.