Myanmar’s Defiant Garment Workers Demand That Fashion Pay Attention

He added that H&M was “extremely concerned about the situation in the country”.

The company’s action followed a statement made last month by H&M, Inditex, Bestseller and Primark, which stressed that they are paying attention to events and reaffirming their commitment to democratic standards. The brands are all signatories to ACT or Action, Collaboration, Transformation, an agreement between brands and the global union IndustriALL. It aims to ensure that workers who use collective bargaining and freedom of association can negotiate living wages.

This week, Ms. Moe Sandar Myint and other union leaders, in addition to civil servants, medical doctors and bank workers and teachers, continued to call for a widespread nationwide strike that would cripple the Myanmar economy and send a message to the generals who had taken them at gunpoint across the country.

Ma Tin Tin Wei, 26, makes men’s jackets for the Italian brand OVS and other labels. She was a textile worker for five years and a union leader for four years. After the coup, she organized a strike on her factory floor where workers wore white blouses, red ribbons, and sang famous historical songs and hymns (a move the factory management allowed). She only worked six days in February, spending most of the time sending letters to embassies, thinking about social media campaigns, and preparing for the strikes.

“If there has been a violation of law in factories before, there is no question under a military regime that it will get worse for low-wage textile workers,” she said. “This is a fight I have to accept. We cannot accept that, even if it means risking arrest or death. It is for me, my family, my union colleagues and everyone in Myanmar. “

According to a recent study, the number of people making less than $ 1.90 a day in Myanmar has more than tripled to 63 percent of the population since the pandemic began. Now, after a year of Covid-19-induced shutdowns, layoffs, wage cuts and union abuse, tens of thousands of textile workers have been incited into civil disobedience in the past few weeks as the coup threatens both their freedom and industry. Factory owners, however, are torn between allowing workers to attend rallies and the anger of the police for allowing them. Many also fear a possible reintroduction of sanctions and that the growing instability will displace valuable international brands. But some of the clothing union leaders said they were ready to make whatever sacrifices – including mass layoffs as a result of possible sanctions – to defeat the military dictatorship.

Although the majority of the 700,000 textile workers in Myanmar remain disorganized, unions have played an important role in shaping their working conditions. Mass strikes and union demands led to a minimum wage being set in 2015. Last year, several clothing unions claimed management used Covid-19 as a pretext for disbanding unions and unions threatening local leaders.

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