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What’s happening in Myanmar?
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What’s happening in Myanmar?

· · Comments

In the run up to #InternationalWomensDay we're talking about the women who lead movements for better conditions for us all.

We couldn't run the campaign without doing a deep dive into the current protests and violent military coup in Myanmar. For a rundown of what's happening for garment workers, see below.

The garment industry in Myanmar employs around 900,000 garment workers,
90% of whom are women.

Workers are asking brands to stand by them as the strike and protest against the recent violent military coup, as many are being intimidated by their employers for doing so.

Covid-19 has already left garment workers vulnerable, as many factories fired workers who organised to raise concerns about contracting the disease.

Unions have only been allowed to form since 2012. Workers are regularly exploited, and although brands do not directly employ workers, garment workers are asking for them to protect them in their right to pro-democratic protest without being fired.

Last March,

“Myan Mode permanently fired all 520 union members working in the Yangon factory, citing a decrease in orders due to COVID-19.

Yet the owners retained more than 700 non-union workers and continued to operate the factory.  The workers were fired minutes after union leaders held a contentious meeting with management in which they demanded an end to mandatory overtime due to fear of contracting COVID-19.” - Solidarity Centre

32 brands that produce in Myanmar have been called upon for support by the Federation of Garment Workers there, including H&M, Intidex (Zara), New Look, Primark and Mango. 

In an open letter, The International Federation of Workers in Myanmar has said:

"The Military junta has huge profitable investments in most of sectors of the Myanmar economy, and a strategically implemented pressure will surely have negative consequences for their interests.

Many large western brands produce their goods using Myanmar suppliers; these brands make up a sizable portion of the Myanmar economy and their withdrawal would have a huge impact. While strong sanctions and boycotts against targeted military investments, will effectively damage interest of the military.

We would like to ask your assistance to write and open a dialogue with American and European brands with significant presence in Myanmar....

...The situation is deteriorating rapidly, and what is needed may change along with developments on the ground. We will communicate to you immediately as things evolve. We cannot thank you enough for your solidarity. We believe this is the best of the global labor movement; standing united in the struggle for democracy."

Ma Moe Sandar Myint, Union Organiser and Chair of the Federation of Garment Workers Myanmar has fought for workers rights throughout the pandemic and military coup, stating,

“We will continue to struggle against injustice using strong unions in the factories and international solidarity, and will not rest until the entire garment industry is humane for workers."

As a company dedicated to humane conditions, we stand with Myanmar's workers. We encourage our customers to put pressure on brands who contribute to human rights abuses, through their lack of action within their supply chains.

Further reading:

Industrial Workers' Federation Of Myanmar-IWFM - Open letter to international brands

Myanmar garment unions call for fashion’s support - Vogue Business

Myanmar’s Labor Movement Is Central to the Fight Against Authoritarianism, an interview with Ma Moe Sandar Myint - Jacobin Magazine

Is COVID-19 a smokescreen for labour abuses? - Frontier Myanmar

SOMO condemns Myanmar coup and urges garment companies to act - Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations