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H&M Myanmar supplier halts work amid staff conflict

A Myanmar garment factory that supplies to Swedish fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) has been forced to temporarily close after what is understood to have been an attack by around 500 protesting workers demanding overtime pay and better working conditions.

According to local news, the workers attacked the Hundred Tex Garment factory in Yangon, destroying equipment, following a drawn-out dispute with its Chinese management. Workers have been demanding owed overtime payment and better working conditions, IndustriAll Global Union says.

The workers began striking in late January after their union chair was fired by factory officials for taking leave without approval, according to The Myanmar Times. The factory has since had to close in order to carry out repairs.

According to IndustriAll, workers have been paid less than the daily minimum wage of MMK3,600 (US$2.7), and have not received overtime payment according to the law, and the customary skills bonus has also been withheld.

An agreement between management and the union, backed by the Confederation Trade Unions of Myanmar (CTUM), was reached in December, however, IndustriAll says the conflict has since escalated as Hundred Tex Garment has not upheld its part, and is refusing to set up a workplace coordination committee, as required by Myanmar labour dispute settlement law.

"The employer is clearly not respecting the outcome of the negotiations in December," says Christina Hajagos-Clausen, IndustriAll textile director. "There seems to be a lack of good faith from their part and we urge them to engage in dialogue and resolve the conflict."

On 25 February, the factory workers called off their weeks-long strike after the Yangon Region Arbitration Council ordered the factory to reinstate a workers union leader.

While, earlier this week, it is understood management announced it would resume operations once repairs were completed and an agreement was signed with the workers. It has also said workers will be paid minimum wage for the duration of the closure.

According to IndustriAll, it had signed a global framework agreement in September 2015 with H&M, protecting the labour rights of 1.6m workers in the retailer's global supply chain. It says there has been "several attempts" from both parties to resolve the conflict with the factory owner.

"Until there is well-functioning industrial relations, all of H&M's business is on hold with Hundred Tex," says Johan Stellansson at H&M.


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