Global Clothing Factory Deal Ditched in Protest at Myanmar Junta

By The Irrawaddy 21 December 2021

Action Collaboration Transformation (ACT), an agreement between 20 global brands, including Sweden’s H&M, Spain’s Inditex and Britain’s Primark, and IndustriALL Global Union (IGU) in pursuit of living wages for workers in clothing supply chains, has ceased operations in military-ruled Myanmar.

IGU represents 50 million workers in 140 countries in the mining, energy and manufacturing sectors, campaigning for solidarity, better working conditions and trade union rights.

On Dec. 15, ACT said the decision is the consequence of the withdrawal of the IGU’s domestic trade union affiliate, the Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar, from ACT’s operations because it is no longer able to operate freely.

The decision was challenging because Myanmar has been an ACT priority country since 2018, the announcement said. ACT said it will reassess if the situation in Myanmar changes.

An employee from the Shwepyithar industrial zone in Yangon told The Irrawaddy: “Our garment factory ceased operations this month. We were paid full compensation. The factory manufactures foreign-brand coats. The management said it was because there are no new orders.”

A garment manufacturer, however, said the sector is operating as normal and orders are steady.

H&M, Zara of fashion group Inditex and Primark are supplied from factories in Myanmar, creating tens of thousands of jobs.

H&M paused its orders with around 40 suppliers in Myanmar following the military coup in February only to put in new orders in May.

Last year there were around 600 factories in Myanmar, providing around 450,000 jobs, according to the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association.

Companies from Australia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, the US, Germany, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Norway and France have ceased or suspended operations in the 10 months since the coup.

Among them are Australian resource giant Woodside, Taiwan’s KOI Bubble Tea Shop, US pretzel retailer Auntie Anne’s, Japanese tire producer Bridgestone, German food giant Metro and Malaysian oil and gas company Petronas, Japanese retailer AEON, Thailand’s largest industrial estate developer Amata Corporation, French multinational electric utility company EDF, Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, UK energy and urban development company Sembcorp and British America Tobacco and Japanese automaker Toyota, according to the Institute for Strategy and Policy in Myanmar.

Norwegian telecom operator Telenor and Australia’s Myanmar Metals Limited have sold their operations, and Japanese beverage giant Kirin Holdings and Singapore’s Virginia Tobacco Company Limited have terminated partnerships with the military-owned conglomerate Myanma Economic Holdings Ltd.

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