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Factories: In conversation with Irshad Mecca, M.D. of Farida Group

June 16, 2020

Highlights from Farida’s COVID-19 response

“The key word for Farida’s COVID-19 response has been empathy. Our key action was to reach out to our 28,000 employees and share with them credible information related to the virus. We conducted daily health checks for 95 percent of the workforce and their families, covering over 97,000 people daily. 

We are paying not only our employees through the lockdown, but also our 160+ suppliers, most of whom are MSMEs and will need sufficient cash flow for their wage bills and statutory commitments.

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Swasti is actively partnering with grassroot organizations, coalitions of marginalized communities, community institutions, community health workers and champions as first responders; collaboratives like the #COVIDActionCollab, factories and others to reach the last mile on COVID risk assessment, Vaccine demand generation, Social Protection helpdesk & the Meal Box.
Highlights from Farida’s COVID-19 response “The key word for Farida’s COVID-19 response has been empathy. Our key action was to reach out to our 28,000 employees and share with them credible information related to the virus. We conducted daily health checks for 95 percent of the workforce and their families, covering over 97,000 people daily.  We are paying not only our employees through the lockdown, but also our 160+ suppliers, most of whom are MSMEs and will need sufficient cash flow for their wage bills and statutory commitments. We also recruited volunteers to monitor which government-announced schemes and packages were reaching our people. We made a list of these schemes to help our factory workers avail access to food, groceries and essential supplies. We also identified families below the poverty line in the neighbourhoods around our factories and started distributing food and groceries to them. Farida’s management believes that the private sector has a tremendous role to play in light of the pandemic. The private sector has the organisational skills to help during this time and it would be a shame to leave those assets idle. Sharing the burden with the government is a prerogative for us”, says Mr. Irshad Mecca, M.D., Farida Group.   What are the main initiatives and outcomes of Farida’s COVID-19 Response?  
  • Effective Outreach to workers and community Areas where the workers reside were mapped, teams were formed and leaders were assigned to each team. Formation of a team to reach workers enabled the management to effectively reach the workers and their family members with support. The leaders constantly inquired about the workers’ health and that of their family members, and the need for support during these times. They reported on the health status of the workers to the Head of the Department (in the factory), who in turn updated the M.D.
  • Workers feeling of being cared for by the management Workers reported being cared for by the management because they were not only provided awareness on prevention and management of COVID-19 before the lockdown, but the leaders were inquiring about them and their families continuously. Workers also reported that during this time of uncertainty, they felt their livelihoods were at risk and were not sure if the factory would resume operations. At such a time, the simple act of the HR and Production management calling and inquiring about their welfare has made them feel supported and secure about their jobs, their financial security and their future. It has improved workers’ sense of belonging, ownership towards their workplace, and bond with the management.
  • Financial Security for Workers Workers at Farida experienced great uncertainty when the lockdown was announced. Workers were worried about how they would pay their rent, some of them had borrowed loans which had to be repaid, some women reported that their husbands had no jobs. Workers were worried about their income, children’s education and daily life. The management of Farida paid salary to the workers during the lockdown, and assured them that their livelihoods were intact, and they could return to work post the lockdown. This assurance and support lifted the morale of the workforce, who were able to tide over their financial stress, and manage their life in such difficult circumstances. The initiative by the management to pay salaries to the workforce enabled them to stock up on essential supplies during the lockdown, given the many restrictions that were in place. Workers said, “Your support helped us to buy essential items for our household and manage during the lockdown. The government was providing vegetables at subsidized prices. On time payment of salaries enabled us to access these commodities at low prices, thereby reducing our expenses during these difficult times.”
  • Food Security for Workers The factory management identified daily-wage workers and individuals without ration cards in the communities within the vicinity of the factory and supplied food and groceries to them. Farida has reported that some of the people they helped in the communities came back to the volunteers and thanked them saying:
  “Our source of income was affected and we were struggling to feed ourselves and our families. In such time, with your support, our families have not gone hungry. Thank you!”   How did you leverage the COVID Action Collaborative? How do you plan on doing so in the future? We are using the collaborative’s support to provide tele-health and tele-counselling services to our workers and their families. We are also using the CAC to understand how to identify and address gender-based violence cases among our employees. Finally, we are leveraging the collaborative for capacity building on community outreach and facilitating social protection benefits to our workers. We read an article stating that government packages trickle down has been only 20 percent- which is abysmally low. Our focus has been in making sure the trickle down work gets all the way down to our workers. Everyone in the private sector looks at this as a cost. But we believe that the private sector’s true assets are management and execution skills. If these assets work in a collaborative way with government policies and schemes to bridge the gap and do last mile connectivity, we will see massive impact.    Contributors: Meghana Dwaraka, Annapoorni S
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