Labor & Workforce

EU demands release of Myanmar garment factory workers held over 38 cent wage-hike request

Bangkok, June 20 (EFE).- The European Union (EU) delegation to Myanmar on Tuesday called for the immediate release of detained clothing factory workers and the reinstatement of those dismissed for asking for salary increases.

“We are concerned about the ongoing detention and welfare of a number of workers and labour rights organizers in the garment sector who have been detained, inter alia, as a consequence of a labor dispute at the Hosheng Myanmar garment factory last week,” a statement from the delegation of the EU to Myanmar said.

Labour union leader Ma Thu Thu San, 28, was arrested and six other executive union members dismissed on June 14 for asking the factory’s management for wage increases, a spokesperson for the Myanmar organization Action Labor Rights confirmed to EFE on Friday.

On Saturday, independent local news outlet The Irrawaddy reported the arrests of four other workers at the same Chinese-owned factory in Yangon’s Shwepyithar township operated by Hosheng (Myanmar) Garment Co., which produced clothing for international fashion giant Zara.

The Irrawaddy reported last week that the workers were asking factory managers for a daily wage increase from 4,800 to 5,600 kyats ($2.29 to $2.67 – a total of 38 cents).

The EU demanded the “immediate release” of those detained, the reinstatement of those who were negotiating better working conditions, and “an end to arrests of all those who are peacefully exercising their right to freedom of association and expression.”

Zara’s Spanish owner Inditex said in a statement sent to EFE on Friday that it had “blocked (its) suppliers from working with this factory,” and that it has been “working on a gradual and responsible exit from Myanmar, following the call of the international federation of trade unions IndustriALL.”

“The events that have occurred in this factory in recent days represent a serious breach of our Code of Conduct for manufacturers and suppliers,” it said.

Since Myanmar’s military coup on Feb. 1, 2021, several multinationals have partially or totally left the country, including some in the garment sector, such as the Japanese company and Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing, which in March announced it would cease Myanmar production for GU, another of its brands.

Other companies making similar decisions have been the Swiss multinational Nestlé, which closed its production line in the Southeast Asian country this year, and the US oil company Chevron, which sold its stake in a natural gas project in February.

The coup plunged Myanmar into a deep political, social and economic crisis and, with the formation of new militias, has exacerbated decades of guerrilla warfare. EFE


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