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Pandemic makes basic facilities more important than ever

Entrepreneur Gerard Voordes, owner of the sport and work-clothing company Muta Sport, keeps paying weekly wages to the company's 75 permanent employees in Pakistan. He is also distributing food boxes to the 500 pieceworkers. In this way, Muta Sport tries to prevent this vulnerable group and their families from falling behind. More than that, he hopes to keep his workers from going back to child labour.

“The families of the employees depend entirely on this income”, Gerard Voordes explains. He continues: “Our company's employees in Pakistan are our most valuable capital.” We have invested heavily in training 75 employees here in the Netherlands, teaching them skills including DTP studio work, creating digital patterns and operating sublimation printers. When the pandemic began, Muta Industries decided to continue paying the 75 employees on its permanent payroll and not to dismiss anyone.

Handing out food boxes

Voordes’ greatest concern were the pieceworkers, some 500 people who perform unskilled labour for Muta and its joint venture partner Capital Sport. Voordes explains: “They are an important flexible workforce, because they not only assemble and stitch the clothing, they also help us with production peaks. Pieceworkers are a vulnerable group, because, in many cases, the entire family – partners, children, grandchildren and grandparents – all depend on the income they bring in.” There are no social aid programmes in Pakistan. No work means no food. When parents find themselves in that situation, they are more likely to push their children to take jobs. “To prevent this, we came up with the idea of handing out food boxes. That way, we know every worker's family has enough to eat.”

Combating child labour

Muta Sport used a subsidy from the Fund against Child Labour (FBK) to set up a project: a platform aimed at commercially relevant ways to combat child labour in the chain. The production chains of Muta Industries and Capital Sports are 100% free from child labour. “We are now applying what we learned from those experiences on behalf of FBK, to help other businesses combat child labour as well. If you want to end child labour, you have to look at your chain from an entrepreneurial perspective. To bring about change, both the business owner and businesses in the supply chain need to be motivated and willing to change.

Social campaign

Muta Industries and its parent company Muta Holding are paying the majority of the costs of the food boxes themselves, an expense that can easily add up to €10,000 per month. “In consultation with the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, we spent a small portion of the FBK subsidy on the food boxes. Since the end of this crisis is nowhere in sight, we have begun looking for a structural solution.” Ideally, Muta Sport would like to distribute food boxes along with each new order. The number of boxes would be tied to the size of the order. “By doing so, we hope to help the Pakistani pieceworkers get through the pandemic. It would offer this vulnerable group one less problem to worry about.”

FBK is a subsidy provided by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency.