Apparel Brands Must Act to End Intimidation of Workers Engaged in the Civil Disobedience Movement in Myanmar

For Immediate Release: 11 March 2021

Apparel Brands Must Act to End Intimidation of Workers Engaged in the Civil Disobedience Movement in Myanmar

Today, 40 human and labor rights organizations published an open letter calling on the apparel brands sourcing from Myanmar to act to end the intimidation of workers engaged in peaceful pro-democracy protests as part of the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM).

The Myanmar Times

On February 1st, the military executed a coup against the elected civilian government. In response, people of all walks of life in Myanmar have risen up in the new Civil Disobedience Movement. Garment workers have played a central role in the CDM’s recent pro-democracy protests and, on March 8th, 2021, they launched a general strike.

However, workers who participate in or show support for CDM protests are being intimidated, threatened and, in some cases, laid off by factory management. Intimidation includes workplace discrimination, detracting salary from workers who take holiday leave to participate in the protests, and threats of mass dismissals. This compounds a deteriorating situation where the military is shooting protesters and raiding worker dormitories at night in search of union leaders.

In a 14 February letter, the Industrial Workers Federation Myanmar made four demands to international brands with Myanmar suppliers, including a public condemnation of the military coup and an effort to ensure that no worker or union leaders should be punished for going on strike or joining the demonstrations. Another letter, dated 18 February, asks brands to exercise due diligence to ensure that their suppliers respect their workers’ right to freedom of association, right to join trade union activities, and other fundamental human and labor rights.

“We are being shot in the streets during the day. Our homes are being raided at night. We have made the global apparel brands huge profits with our bare hands over the years, the very least they should do right now is ensure we are not fired simply for wishing not to live under a military dictatorship. Amidst such an undisputed human rights travesty, their silence thus far is appalling,” stated Ma Moe Sandar Myint, Chairwoman of the Federation of General Workers of Myanmar (FGWM).

“We call on all international brands sourcing from Myanmar factories to both respect and comply with the call by the Industrial Workers Federation Myanmar and Federation of Garment Workers Myanmar,” stated Simon Billenness, Executive Director of the International Campaign for the Rohingya.

High-profile global brands such as Adidas, Lidl, and Zara (Inditex) produce apparel in Myanmar factories, but none have issued a public statement explicitly demanding that no workers producing their goods be dismissed for participation in the pro-democracy demonstrations. A recent investigation by Frontier, Danwatch, and Myanmar Now found evidence of discrimination against labor leaders and violations of basic labor standards at garment factories across Yangon supplying major apparel brands.

In their open letter, the 40 labor and human rights organizations state:

“We further call on these brands to exhibit rigorous due diligence in instructing the owners and management of the factories, from which they source, to comply fully with the brands’ standards for the rights of workers who make their apparel. These instructions must include a prohibition of any intimidation by management of workers who miss work due to participation in the civil disobedience campaign. Such instruction must be accompanied by a warning that the brands will terminate their contracts with factories that violate this requirement. We will be closely monitoring the situation in Myanmar. We reserve our right to take all appropriate action in support of workers as they assert their rights both as workers and as citizens of Myanmar.”

For more information contact:

Simon Billenness

Executive Director, International Campaign for the Rohingya

Campaign Director, No Business With Genocide

Mobile (US): 617-596-6158

Twitter: @Rohingya_ICR


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