Clothing production in Burma
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SOMO, the Dutch research center on multinational companies, and Burmese NGOs Action Labor Rights (ALR) and Labor Rights Defenders & Promoters (LRDP), have just published a report entitled “The Myanmar Dilemna. Industry deliver decent jobs for workers? ” Which highlights human rights violations in the textile garment sector in Myanmar (formerly Burma), recently opened to international trade and new eldorado of major European brands and brands for its low-cost labor.
After decades of military dictatorship and economic isolation through international sanctions, trade with Myanmar is growing rapidly, particularly in the textile sector. The low wages of the country and favorable tariff conditions for exports make this fragile and nascent democracy a global center for the production of clothing. Large and smaller brands and European clothing brands are tempted to make it the next stop of their race down, unscrupulous with regard to bad working conditions. The development of industrial areas has also resulted in violations of land rights.
Working condition in the textile industry in Burma
SOMO, ALR and LRDP conducted investigations at 12 factories that manufacture apparel for international brands such as Muji, H & M, C & A or Primark, and relies on the testimony of 400 workers in these factories, the vast majority of whom are women. They also met with factory owners, clothing brand representatives, multi-stakeholder initiatives, employers’ organizations, NGOs and local and international trade unions. The report reports on violations of fundamental rights at work in the textile industry, poor working conditions, low wages (€ 50 per month), unpaid overtime, work by young workers aged 15 , Violations of organizational and collective bargaining rights and freedom of association, as well as violations of land rights by military personnel who grab agricultural land for new industrial textile areas.
If a few workers risk lodging a complaint or publicly denouncing these violations and their poor working conditions, the vast majority of them are silently exploited on a daily basis. In spite of the emerging democratization and the will of the new government to bring into force legislation that respects international human rights standards, the power of the military remains predominant in all areas, Risk of violations of fundamental rights is still very high.
The multinational apparel companies that source from Myanmar have an even greater responsibility to ensure that their activities do not contribute to the worsening of a situation that is undermining Burmese workers. Their economic activity and their pursuit of profit can not profit from failing states at the end of complex political situations. More than anywhere else, it is their duty to implement their duty of vigilance by identifying and preventing these risks before starting any business relationship. Yet, as the “Myanmar Dilemna” report shows, many are not only ignoring this responsibility, but also sacrificing fundamental social rights in search of profit.