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31 Jul 2023

Myanmar: Eight union leaders & labour rights activists at Inditex supplier face trial on incitement charges

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In July 2023, it was reported that five garment workers and three union activists in Myanmar are facing trial on incitement charges at a military court, after being arrested following protests demanding a pay rise at Hosheng Myanmar Garment Co. Ltd in Yangon, allegedly supplying Zara and Pull & Bear (both Inditex brands).

According to reports, workers at the factory had been protesting for a pay rise of an additional 800 kyats (38 US cents) a day, from 4,800 to 5,600 kyats. On 10 June, seven union leaders were fired from their jobs after the protests, and on 14 June, five union leaders were then arrested and taken to an interrogation centre in Shwe Pyi Thar, before being kept in custody. Three other labour activists have been arrested in connection to the protests. The day prior to the protests, it is alleged that police officers and soldiers shouted threats at the workers, telling them the township was under martial law. Army personnel were also reportedly at the factory before the protest began. The workers and activists face charges under the Sedition Law and Unlawful Association Act.

According to reports, the workers had formed the union in April, as the factory was said to have a ‘well-documented’ history of rights violations, with workers reporting forced overtime, low pay, and workers being prevented from complaining about conditions.

In July 2023, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (the Resource Centre) invited Inditex to respond to the allegations listed above, as well as demands from the union, specifically requesting information on:

  • What Inditex is doing to support and advocate for the immediate release of the arrested union leaders and activists.
  • What strategies are in place to ensure the protesting workers’ demands for higher wages are being met.
  • What Inditex is doing to ensure working conditions at the factory are improved and workers’ right to freedom of association is protected.
  • What Inditex is doing in regards to wages and freedom of association in preparation for its responsible exit.

Inditex stated that after being informed by Action Labour Rights in June 2023 of the dismissal and detention of workers at the factory, it had taken immediate action to block the factory from its production and removed it from its supply chain. Inditex also reports it has been pushing for the release of the workers through dialogue with suppliers and different institutional actors, and has called on the factory and related suppliers for:

  • The immediate reinstatement of the dismissed workers in their previous positions with related back pay.
  • The absence of any type of reprisal action against workers
  • The immediate remediation of any harm that might have been caused to workers as result of the severe events that have occurred.

The full response can be found below.

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