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Dhaka Tribune

H&M probes alleged Myanmar factory abuses

  • A human rights advocacy group tracked 156 cases of alleged worker abuse in Myanmar garment factories
  • There have been 21 cases of alleged abuses linked to Inditex suppliers over the two-year period, and 20 linked to H&M suppliers
Update : 16 Aug 2023, 11:10 PM

H&M is investigating 20 alleged instances of labour abuse at Myanmar garment factories that supply the world's second-largest fashion retailer, it told Reuters, just weeks after top rival Zara-owner Inditex said it was phasing out purchases from the Southeast Asian country.

A British-based human rights advocacy group tracked 156 cases of alleged worker abuse in Myanmar garment factories from February 2022 to February 2023, up from 56 in the previous year, indicating a deterioration of workers' rights since a military coup in February 2021.

Wage reduction and wage theft were the most frequently reported allegations, followed by unfair dismissal, inhumane work rates, and forced overtime, according to a report by the non-governmental organization, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC).

"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," H&M said in a statement.

"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 Swedish retailer said.

The BHRRC has tracked allegations of workers' rights abuses in Myanmar garment factories since the military junta took power, plunging the country into political and humanitarian crisis. The tracker includes abuse cases at 124 separate factories.

The BHRRC said it tracks cases of alleged abuses through sources including union leaders, international media, and local media such as Myanmar Labour News, and seeks to verify reports by checking with brands and interviewing workers. Reuters has not independently verified its findings.

There have been 21 cases of alleged abuses linked to Inditex suppliers over the two-year period, and 20 linked to H&M suppliers, according to the report. Inditex declined to comment on the report.

A spokesperson for Myanmar's military government did not reply to a request for comment on the findings. The Myanmar Garment Manufacturing Association did not reply to a request for comment.

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