Worker interviews is a typical part of social compliance audits. This is something auditors arrange in a closed room, one on one. They ask about the pay, the working time, the working conditions, the accidents, and so on. It gives them another perspective, in addition to management’s claims.
There are obvious limits to this method, though.
Typically, all workers are briefed by their management before an auditor arrives. In some cases, they are promised a bonus and they are told they need to “support the factory to get more business so that everybody makes more money in the long run”…
That’s why a client asked me this question yesterday:
The interviews are in the working place.. so isn’t it difficult for workers to speak out about any problems? Are there alternatives to on-site interviews?
The sad reality is that auditors do what they can. In China, written records and managers can’t be trusted. So any extra source of information is welcome.
Another potential source of information would be off-site interviews. But how can the auditor be sure the so-called employees of factory XYZ really work there? This is what I’d call an investigation, not an audit.
What is the purpose of an audit? Is it to find evidence that the auditee is doing something bad?
No! Auditors are not policemen.
The purpose is to collect evidence (in an impartial way) to get to a conclusion (“here is what the factory does well and what they do not-so-well”).
And, to be fair, an experienced auditor can “feel” when managers and workers are putting up a show. It is up to the auditor to think “there are probably dead bodies, so where are they?” and to find them without antagonizing the manufacturer. This is a big part of the art of auditing!