A new guide to apparel factory training in China says workers need to be more involved if factory conditions are to improve, and that the current process of audits and corrective action plans is not enough to bring about long-term change.

It also criticises international buyers for failing to build long-term relationships with their suppliers, and says the practice of constantly seeking the best deal from factories undermines the trust between them.

The guide is based on the findings of a seminar organised in Hong Kong earlier this year by the Fair Wear Foundation, which works to promote fair labour conditions in textile factories worldwide.

Called 'Best practices in factory training in China: Contributing to more worker participation in the improvement of working conditions,' it brings together input from NGOs and academics on best practices in factory training.

Most production in Southern and eastern China is outsourced by multinational companies, whose factory training projects relate to the implementation of international labour standards.

However, the factories themselves also face numerous challenges, including competition on price, which pushes down wages, and high labour turnover.

Many factory managers also resist training in the belief that it arms a restless workforce with the latest labour rights information and may arouse the suspicions of local law enforcement agencies.

Trust emerged as a key requirement in successful factory training, with factory management, buyers and their agents all needing to work together to create a receptive environment.

Indeed, the report notes that "trust building may require making factory training part of business-to-business negotiations, putting it on equal terms with discussions on standard lead times, quality and prices."

All training needs to motivate workers to respond and get involved, but equally, all stakeholders should have a have a realistic idea of what it can deliver.

The report is both in English and in Chinese, and can also be downloaded from the Fair Wear Foundation's website.