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12 May 2020

Myanmar: Garment workers allege factories are using COVID-19 to dismiss union members; Incl. company responses

Unions report Myan Mode, Rui-Ning and Huabo Times factories in Myanmar are using the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to target and dismiss unionised workers. Inditex sources from all three factories, BESTSELLER buys from Rui Ning and Huabo Times, while MANGO and Primark are also buyers from Myan Mode and Huabo Times, respectively.  

On 28 March 2020, 571 workers – including all 520 members of the factory union – were dismissed from Myan Mode garment factory. While the factory has cited a decrease in orders due to COVID-19 as reason for the dismissals, they were made hours after union representatives requested increased protections against the risk of COVID-19 infection. Myan Mode has since dismissed a further 50 workers who walked out of the factory to protest against the dismissal of the union members. On 30 May, Myan Mode reached an agreement with the union to reinstate 75 fired unionised workers and recall hundreds of other fired union members when operations return to normal as the pandemic eases. Labour groups remain concerned that the brands have not pushed for the reinstatement of all dismissed union members. 

In early May 2020, Rui Ning factory laid off 324 workers – 298 of whom are union members – citing COVID-19 related reasons for the dismissals. Union leaders have accused Rui Ning of targeting them for dismissal due to their union affiliation, and report having since observed the factory hiring new workers who are not affiliated with the union. On 17 July after months of struggle, the Rui-Ning factory union won the reinstatement of the 298 fired union members, including the union’s president.

On 14 May 2020, just three days after workers registered a new union due to fears that Huabo Times would make dismissals in response to COVID-19, factory management dismissed 26 unionised workers – including four union leaders – and a further 81 workers openly supportive of the newly formed union (107 workers in total). Workers report the factory said it needed to downsize due to the impact of COVID-19, however a few weeks later transferred workers from another factory into Huabo Times.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Inditex, MANGO, BESTSELLER and Primark to respond to the allegations. The responses are included below.

We received a rejoinder from the workers' unions at Rui-Ning and Myan Mode factories who said the brands ignored their pleas for help as union members and leaders were targeted, and a rejoinder from Clean Clothes Campaign who said the brands have failed in their due diligence. Inditex, BESTSELLER and MANGO were invited to provide additional comment; Inditex provided an update. The materials are included below. 

Company Responses

Inditex View Response
Bestseller View Response
Primark (part of Associated British Foods) View Response