The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre has identified 198 cases of labour and human rights violations in Myanmar since the illegal military takeover two years ago.
The military takeover has affected at least 104,000 workers in Myanmar’s garment sector and big fashion brands have reportedly failed to protect workers in their supply chains from widespread labour rights abuses with Inditex, Bestseller, Primark and H&M being linked to most documented allegations.
These abuses range from inhumane working conditions and wage theft to the use of violence, arbitrary arrest and killings. The most common allegations of abuse were reduced wages and wage theft (56 per cent), followed by unfair dismissal (44 per cent).
In many instances, factory owners were the alleged perpetrators of this abuse, reportedly in collusion with Myanmar’s military.
Fashion brands sourcing from these factories have in turn failed to conduct adequate human rights due diligence in the country as they often have to rely on factory owners or a third party to investigate conditions for workers on the ground (as indicated by 24 per cent of brand responses to allegations).
The data from the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre shows at least 37 fashion brands and retailers were linked to factories where violations took place, either as current or former buyers. Inditex was linked to the most cases of alleged abuses (15 cases), followed closely by H&M, Bestseller and Primark (13 cases each).
Additional data paints an inhumane picture that includes inhumane work rates and forced overtime accounts for 42 per cent of overall cases; gender-based violence and harassment (30 per cent) continues to be a major concern; workers have been denied leave in 25 per cent of cases and faced unsafe working conditions in 20 per cent of cases; business-military collusion was recorded in 16 per cent of recorded cases; and arbitrary arrests and detention were recorded in 11 per cent of cases.
Natalie Swan, Head of Labour Rights, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, commented, “While the world focuses on other crises, Myanmar faces a perfect storm of protracted social, political and economic challenges – including economic recession and high levels of violence. Two years after Myanmar’s military coup, apparel brands sourcing from the country continue to show a concerning lack of action in ensuring respect for the rights of workers who make their clothes.”
The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre is an international NGO that tracks the human rights impacts (positive and negative) of more than 10,000 companies across nearly 200 countries.