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11 Jul 2022

SOMO & Clean Clothes Campaign

Reaction of SOMO, CCC, and Myanmar labour rights organisation to the verdict in the complaints procedure concerning C&A

This week the Complaints and Disputes Committee (CDC) of the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile published its final decision on a complaint filed by a Myanmar labour rights organisation (“Z”) , together with SOMO and the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), against C&A in July 2020. The complaint revolved around C&A’s failure to protect freedom of association at a supplier in Yangon, Myanmar. The complaint procedure took almost two years and left the workers out in the cold...

In June 2018, problems began at the factory, for many years an important supplier to C&A. Workers were concerned about wages, among other things, and with the help of “Z” organised themselves into a basic labour organisation, a factory trade union. The management reacted aggressively and crushed the union. Workers who played an important role in the union were systematically harassed and intimidated. Five of them were fired or forced to resign.

Alarmed by the aggressive attitude of the management, CCC, SOMO, and “Z” tried to enter into dialogue with C&A about the problems at this supplier. For about two years, we tried to persuade C&A to take a focused approach to the problems. During this period, C&A did not do enough to ensure workers could organise themselves into a trade union.

When these attempts came to nothing, we turned to the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile in the hope and expectation that the Complaints and Disputes Committee would be able to hold C&A to its commitments under the agreement concerning freedom of association.

In its final judgment, the CDC declared the complaint to be partly justified. CCC, SOMO, and “Z” were vindicated in respect of C&A’s failure to uphold trade union freedom in the factory concerned and to meaningfully involve stakeholders. According to the committee, C&A should have involved “Z” as a legitimate stakeholder in the resolution of the problems and made use of the knowledge and expertise of this and other organisations such as SOMO and CCC. C&A should also have shared more information with these parties and should have consulted with “Z”, CCC, and SOMO about its disengagement from the factory and departure from Myanmar.

Despite the fact that SOMO, CCC, and “Z” have been vindicated on these important points, we are not satisfied with the proceedings or their outcome. The procedure has not brought any significant improvement for the workers at the factory. No trade union was formed. The dismissed workers were not reinstated.

The Dutch garments and textile agreement was terminated on 31 December 2021. The announced end of the agreement hung like a sword of Damocles over the proceedings. The complainants repeatedly pointed this out and urged the CDC to act urgently – unfortunately, without result. Now there is at last a final judgment, but no authority remains to hold C&A to it. In the meantime, C&A has severed its buying relationship with the factory, and the Taiwanese owner has transferred the factory to a new owner. C&A withdrew completely from Myanmar after the military coup on 1 February 2021. However, the factory, after closing temporarily, is once again in operation under the new owner, with some of the old staff...