False promises in Myanmar; Exploitation goes on

From www.scienceblogs.com |

Garret Brown, one of the major voices in the fight for the workers rights in the garment industry, remember us the situation of Myanmar workers in the last months.

“In February 2017, garment workers enraged by abusive and illegal working conditions stormed their factory and smashed $75,000 worth of equipment after attacking factory managers. The worker revolt in the one of the poorest and most vulnerable countries in the world also revealed the broken promises of international clothing brands that sweatshop apparel production would lead to better lives and “empowerment” of the overwhelmingly female garment workforce in Myanmar. The Hangzhou Hundred-Tex Garment factory is Chinese-owned and exclusively produces for Swedish apparel giant Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), which considers itself a leader of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the garment industry. H&M, along with U.S.-based Gap Inc., were founders of the “Myanmar Responsible Sourcing Working Group,” coordinated by the San Francisco-based Business for Social Responsibility”.

Therefore, H&M is again in the spotlight, even when the Swedish brand try to change its image to a more responsible brand.

“Because of extremely low wages and abusive management practices, Myanmar’s garment industry has witnessed hundreds of strikes, demonstrations and protests since the end of decades-long military rule in 2011. Management consulting firm Verisk Maplecroft found that Myanmar had the world’s second lowest labor costs in 2015 – higher only than Djibouti in Africa – which were just too low to be passed up by international apparel brands and retailers.”

“In June 2014, Gap Inc. became the first US-based apparel company to source from Myanmar with the blessing of the U.S. Embassy and government agencies. The Gap partnered with US AID and CARE International to sponsor an “award-winning women’s advancement program” to offer women garment workers (poor women coming from rural areas) interactive training to respond to economic opportunity through increased IT and business skills…to help them become more successful both personally and professionally”.

Brown provides several reports that show a more realistic situation of garment workers than could be expected by the brands promises:

“These reports document how working conditions have not improved for the nearly 400,000 garment workers (90% women) in 350 factories in Myanmar, half of which are foreign-owned (primarily Chinese, Korean Taiwanese and Japanese) and produce for well-known international brands. Workers typically work 60 or more hours a week, six days a week, earning 35-40 cents an hour, for a monthly wage between $83 to $98 (depending on the amount of overtime). The reports indicate that 43% of garment workers are in perpetual debt because their wages do not cover even basic living expenses. For example, the rent for a 9 to 10 square foot room runs between $36 and $59 a month for workers”. 

“The reports above reveal that a majority of garment workers do not have labor contracts and are considered “day laborers.” They do not qualify for the $3.25 daily wage until after their 6-month probation, and they are not eligible for bonuses, benefits or social security coverage.  Their piece-work rate wages often fall below the daily minimum.  Even for garment workers with contracts, many factory owners consider the daily minimum wage to be the “daily maximum,” a ceiling rather than a floor for wages”

See the original news here