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H&M investigates Myanmar factory after 20 cases of reported abuse

Chloe Burney
17 August 2023

Retail giant H&M is investigating 20 alleged instances of labour abuse at garment factories in Myanmar, just weeks after rival Inditex said it was cutting ties with factories in the Southeast Asian country.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), a British-based human rights advocacy group, has tracked 156 cases of reported worker abuse in Myanmar garment factories from February 2022 to February 2023. This was up by a third (from 56) the previous year, pointing to a deterioration of workers' rights since a junta military coup in February 2021.

According to Reuters, wage reduction and wage theft were the most frequently reported allegations, followed by unfair dismissal, inhumane work rates and forced overtime.

In a statement, H&M stated: "All the cases raised in the report by BHRRC are being followed up and where needed remediated through our local team on the ground and in close cooperation with relevant stakeholders.

"We are deeply concerned by the latest developments in Myanmar, and we see increased challenges to conduct our operations according to our standards and requirements."

The non-governmental organisation, BHRRC, has tracked allegations of workers' rights abuses in Myanmar garment factories since the military junta took power. Since then, the country has been led into a political and humanitarian crisis.

The BHRRC tracks cases of alleged abuses through a variety of sources. These include union leaders, international media and local media. It then seeks to verify reports by checking with brands and interviewing workers. Since the tracker was established, reports of abuse have come from 124 separate factories.

At the end of June, the Spanish fast fashion giant Inditex outlined an exit plan from Myanmar in response to calls made by the global trade union IndustriALL for fashion brands to cease production in the country. Over the two-year period, there have been 21 cases of alleged abuses stemming from Inditex suppliers.

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