Pete Freeman, intern
On any given day, the Global Mamas’ Ashaiman site is alive with the whirring of sewing machines, clicking of computer mice and keyboards, and splashing of soon-to-be dresses dunked in cool dye and water. Ashaiman is a hub for a small group of full-time, directly employed seamstresses, batikers, and quality control staff. Unlike our Cape Coast location where the women are small business owners and work from their own workshops, in Ashaiman the Mamas come into a Global Mamas workshop. Here, the symphony of work-related activities is a steady buzz beginning as early as 7 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m. But in late May 2015, the usual commotion was overpowered by shouts of joy and dancing after a payroll mistake was discovered and rectified.
Recently, the Ashaiman site underwent a huge transition to performance-based pay. Under this new payroll method, a Mama’s salary is comprised of a base pay and performance pay. Base pay ensures that the Mama always receives a living wage. Performance-based pay incentivizes efficient, high quality work. [Read more about this process in our 2014 annual report here.] This transition from our previous fixed wage method has not only revitalized the Mamas’ commitment to fair trade entrepreneurship, but has also led to a renewed sense of community among the Mamas in Ashaiman. The Mamas radiate pride with their work and show increased happiness
However, in May of 2015, we discovered a problem with this system: some Mamas had earned more pay than they had received in their paycheck. The discrepancy was caused by the miscalculation of vacation and sick time and affected Ashaiman seamstresses and batikers. As direct employees, the Mamas in Ashaiman receive between 21 and 26 days of paid time off (depending on how long they have worked with Global Mamas). If a Mama does not use all of her earned vacation and sick time each year, they receive payment for these hours at their normal hourly working rate. So, for Mamas who take little vacation and are rarely ill, a sizable bonus is paid on their anniversary with Global Mamas.
After reviewing the implementation of this new payment method, we realized that our payroll system was only taking the base salary into account for the vacation and sick payout and not the larger portion of performance pay. Unfortunately, this mistake began early 2014 and carried on until May 2015.
The payroll issue was quickly corrected in May 2015. By altering the pay calculator and providing back pay to the Mamas, everyone was compensated for our accounting mistake. Some compensation payments were small, while others were very large for the Mamas who had taken very little time off. After meeting with the Mamas in small groups to explain about the payroll discrepancy, we were greeted with a welcomed, but unexpected reaction upon receipt of their unexpected “bonus”. The Mamas danced around the room, shouting, “We are happy!”It is nice when a mistake on our part can end up bringing so much joy to the Mamas.