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Supplier 'improves employees’ lives'

Julian Atkinson, MD of coffin company JC Atkinson, recently visited the Bangladesh home of supplier Oasis Coffins, and has agreed new deals to expand production there.

Julian has also seen how the company has significantly improved the lives of its employees and the community in which it is based.

Established in 2008, Oasis Coffins exclusively supplies JC Atkinson with hand-crafted bamboo and willow coffins.
Its factory is based in a poorer rural area of Bangladesh, about 300 miles from the capital Dhaka – an area that has a rich weaving tradition.

The coffins are all made from natural materials, and are designed to make full use of the benefits of bamboo, wood and willow, and to minimise energy usage. They are packed to maximise loads for transportation to reduce travelling costs and carbon footprint, and then reassembled at the JC Atkinson factory.

Oasis Coffins’ modern, spacious building is in a special government-controlled 300-acre compound, and is built to a high standard, as well as being earthquake-resistant. It has plenty of natural light and ventilation and the workforce is around 80 staff, with an equal balance of women.

Factories offer more secure and better-paid work than the subsistence employment of agriculture in Bangladesh, which is the most densely populated country on the planet. Oasis Coffins offers even more benefits, with employees getting the chance to gain both work and life skills. Literacy and numeracy classes are held each lunchtime, to help staff with their work tasks, but also to benefit them at home.

Health and nutrition are also treated seriously. Every employee gets a comprehensive health check and two healthy snacks each working day. There is also a counsellor to support employees with various problems, including, for example, dealing with domestic abuse.

Oasis has also employed a consultant who offers training in managing debt, which is often taken on at high interest rates.
Tohidul, team leader in the finishing section, said his previous jobs were just “odd jobs on people’s farms”, and working for Oasis was the first time he had a monthly income:

“What I have learnt here is how to live,” he says. “When I needed money all I thought about was how to get work. There was no need to think of anything else. Now I have a stable income and I am learning how to work as a part of a team. I’m doing the same in my community.

“We have a culture of respecting and valuing each other here and I am now able to bring this home. I now see how important it is to live in mutual relationships in my community. I love the fact I can work as a team – even though the work is physical, there is joy in doing the work together.”

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