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Article

31 Jan 2022

Author:
Jasmin Malik Chua, Sourcing Journal

Myanmar: Trade unions & labour organisations call for brands to "cease all production and pull out" of Myanmar

"Sourcing Apparel From Myanmar Factories: ‘It’s Time for Brands to Go’", 31 January 2022

Ahead of the first anniversary of Myanmar’s military coup, a global alliance of more than 130 trade unions and labor groups, including the All Burma Federation of Trade Unions and the Federation of General Workers Myanmar, is calling on multinational fashion brands to “cease all production and pull out” of the turbulent Southeast Asian nation...

Speaking at the launch of the Myanmar Military: Never in Fashion campaign Monday, Jay Kerr, a campaigner at London-based anti-sweatshop group No Sweat, recounted reports of garment factory owners working closely with the military and police to “hand over perceived troublemakers,” including trade union leaders and workers involved in pro-democracy protests....

“From our perspective, under these conditions, it’s impossible for brands to do the due diligence needed to protect workers,” he said. “They can’t do what they can do in other countries under the circumstances they are in. It’s time for brands to go. This is not a judgment made lightly.” What differentiates the campaign from previous ones is that the call for a boycott comes from the workers themselves, Kerr added.

[...]

While some brands have stopped placing new orders with their suppliers in Myanmar, others, including Bestseller, H&M, Mango, Next and Primark have said they would continue to source from the country to provide workers with jobs. Several have cited a desire to wait for the results of a pending Ethical Trade Initiative and Fair Wear Foundation human-rights impact assessment, announced in September, that will include an “evidence-based” comparison of how continued sourcing in Myanmar versus fleeing the embattled nation affects workers and the local industry.

But there is no need for such a survey since trade unions have already provided the organizations with a long list of the junta’s “extreme violations,” said Khaing Zar Aung, the exiled president of the Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar...

[...]

Khaing Zar Aung said she fears the assessment’s results will be wielded as an argument against divestment, even though brands are legitimizing a “terrorist dictatorship” by staying. Worse, by sourcing from factories inside industrial zones linked to the military, they could also be pouring money into the junta’s coffers, even though Myanmar makes up a tiny fraction of most U.S. and European brands’ supplier networks...

The Myanmar Military: Never in Fashion campaign wants to see a “responsible” exit from brands that includes paying all workers for orders that have been completed, working with trade unions to resolve wage disputes and doling out humanitarian aid.

Khaing Zar Aung said garment workers want brands to continue sourcing from Myanmar but only if the rule of law respects human rights, which it currently doesn’t. Right now, there is no freedom of association, no collective bargaining and no human rights “at all,” she said. “I know brands say they want to stay in Myanmar so they can protect workers. But there is no way for them to protect workers.”

Part of the following timelines

Myanmar: Trade unions & labour organisations call for economic sanctions against the military regime

Myanmar: One year since attempted coup, CSOs & unions express solidarity with ongoing resistance & call for economic sanctions