On Saturday 11 June 2-3pm the campaign Myanmar Military: Never in Fashion will protest outside H&M, Zara and Primark on Oxford street to inform the public and urge the brands to stop doing business with the Myanmar military.

On 1 February 2021, the military in Myanmar carried out a coup and arrested elected government members. The army and police have responded to widespread peaceful protests with deadly force, shooting live rounds into the crowds. They have killed thousands of people in the past year. Thousands more have been detained, raped and tortured while in custody. This is the same army which carried out the genocide of the Rohingya forcing hundreds of thousands into exile, and has repressed ethnic groups for decades.

Women workers and trade union leaders in the garment industry were among the first to oppose the coup and to be killed and arrested. In order to repress the workers’ opposition, military personnel have been deployed at factory gates, arresting workers who don’t support the military. Working conditions have plummeted – long hours for little or no pay, trade unions not recognised, factories closed temporarily or permanently with no compensation.

Laura Watson from Myanmar Military Never in Fashion campaign says:

90% of garment workers in Myanmar are women, the primary carers of children and others. Alongside all other sectors they are confronting the sexism, racism, rape, exploitation, torture and murder by this brutal dictatorship. We urge the brands to support the call by women garment workers and their trade unions for international companies to end their criminal collaboration with the deadly Myanmar military regime.

Under the previous dictatorship, brands did not operate in Myanmar. They began to trade when partial civilian rule returned in 2010 and signed the Action, Collaboration, Transformation (ACT) committing to ethical standards. Now that military rule has returned, the same ruthless conditions are recurring and workers’ rights cannot be ensured. Why are brands not pulling out? ACT have pulled out but some of the brands that signed on to ACT have not.

On 21 April 2022, two young women from Industrial Workers’ Federation of Myanmar (IWFM) and Confederation of Trade Unions Myanmar (CTUM) were beaten and arrested by six soldiers, after attending a peaceful demonstration in the South Okkalapa township. A military vehicle had rammed into the taxi that was carrying the trade unionists in order to arrest them. https://twitter.com/IndustriALL_GU/status/1517108735063339008

Myanmar Military: Never in Fashion is an international campaign for brands to cease all production in Myanmar to weaken the military dictatorship and force it to step down. The campaign is supported by 200+ unions and other organisations and is co-ordinated by Global Women’s Strike @WomenStrike and No Sweat @No_Sweat.

Despite companies saying they are committed to human rights, trade unionists in Industrial Workers’ Federation of Myanmar (IWFM) have been collating complaints workers in factories making clothes for Guess, H&M, Next, Primark and Zara:

Guess:

In 2021, the IWFM received one report from workers in a factory making clothes for Guess.

Workers are paid under the minimum wage, are forced to work overtime most nights without being paid for it as they are legally entitled to. When workers are sick, money is deducted from their salaries. Women working late are not helped with security and one woman was raped. The factory doesn’t provide good or enough food for workers. The factory invited the military in to check workers’ mobile phones at the entrance and arrest anyone who opposed the military. https://www.myanmarlabournews.com/news/235

H&M:

H&M is a member of Action, Collaboration, Transformation (ACT), who have ended operations in Myanmar.

In 2021, the IWFM received six reports from workers in factories making clothes for H&M.

At a factory making clothes for Zara, Only, Next and H&M, workers were refused payment because they participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement and were fired without compensation. The factory targeted trade unionist leaders in particular. Bonuses and overtime paid are not paid and workers are forced to work on Sundays.

In another factory making clothes for H&M, measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 were not implement and three people died as a result. Workers are forced to do overtime and are refused dormitories to stay in. Travel used to be arranged to and from the factories for workers but many are now expected to arrange their own travel.

H&M has temporarily paused all sales in Russia and closed all stores in Ukraine. It said it was “deeply concerned about the tragic developments in Ukraine” and it stands “with all the people who are suffering”. The fashion retailer said it was in conversations with relevant stakeholders and has made donations of clothes and other necessities, while the H&M Foundation has made monetary donations to Save the Children and UNHCR.

Why not in Myanmar too?

Next:

Next is a member of Action, Collaboration, Transformation (ACT), who have ended operations in Myanmar. But Next has not.

In 2021, the IWFM received three reports from workers in factories making clothes for Next. Next told us “We will continue to monitor our contracted suppliers / factories in Myanmar to ensure that they meet our standards and in case there are any human rights abuses reported from within our supply chain, we will work with all the relevant stakeholders to remedy the situation.”

At a factory making clothes for Zara, Only, Next and H&M, workers were refused payment because they participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement and were fired without compensation. The factory targeted trade unionist leaders in particular. Bonuses and overtime paid are not paid and workers are forced to work on Sundays.

At another factory making clothes for Next, the factory closed due to the political situation without any compensation to the workers. When the factory was reopened, workers were told that if they couldn’t get back to work, they would be fired.

In another factory, the factory was closed without prior notice and severance pay wasn’t calculated according to the law.

Next shutdown its Russian website and distribution centre “indefinitely” with an expected £85 million loss in sales as a result.

Why not in Myanmar too?

Primark:

Primark is a member of Action, Collaboration, Transformation (ACT), who have ended operations in Myanmar. But Primark has not.

In 2021, the IWFM received one report from workers in factories making clothes for Primark. In one factory, one worker was dismissed unfairly with no compensation.

Primark told us: “As a responsible business, our first priority will always be the safety and wellbeing of the people who make our clothes and products. We are also conscious of the thousands of workers who rely on us for their livelihoods through employment at our suppliers’ factories…We continue to work closely with all stakeholders and our own team on the ground as the situation evolves.”

Primark responded to the war in Ukraine by making a £250,000 donation to UNICEF saying that the donation would “help scale up life-saving support for children and their families with safe water, hygiene supplies, healthcare and psycho-social support”.[1]
Why not in Myanmar too?

Zara:

In 2021, the IWFM received three reports from workers in factories making clothes for Zara.

At a factory making clothes for Zara, Only, Next and H&M, workers were refused payment for participating in the Civil Disobedience Movement and were fired without compensation. The factory targeted trade unionist leaders in particular. Bonuses and overtime paid are not paid and workers are forced to work on Sundays.

At another factory, workers and the trade union were given no notice of the factory closing temporarily. The closure was not discussed with the trade union. The workers were given a choice to take compensation and resign or return to work when the factory reopens (with no mention of when that would be) and the pay would only be minimum page and no bonuses.

At another factory, despite sewing for ACT brands, the union wasn’t recognised. Union members were threatened and harassed, including for participating in the Civil Disobedience Movement. Without notice, the factory was closed without any prior warning to the union or workers. There are now rumours that the factory will close permanently but no compensation has been offered. Many workers had to return to their villages to survive.

Inditex has “temporarily” closed all of its 502 stores in Russia – of which 86 are Zara – and its transactional website in the country. Inditex said it would provide “a special support plan” to its 9,000-strong workforce in the country.

Why not in Myanmar too?

Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1050744399195444/?ref=newsfeed

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