H&M has decided to cease its garment production in Myanmar amid concerns about labour abuses in its supplier factories. The company announced its intention to gradually phase out operations in the country, following the lead of other retailers like Inditex, Primark, and M&S, which have also disengaged due to ongoing reports of mistreatment.
"After careful consideration we have now taken the decision to gradually phase out our operations in Myanmar," H&M said in an email to Reuters.
H&M's decision comes as it acknowledges the escalating challenges of upholding its standards and requirements within the Myanmar context. The company expressed its alignment with a "responsible exit framework" devised by global union IndustriALL. This framework has been promoted by the union to encourage brands to discontinue business relations with Myanmar.
“We have been monitoring the latest developments in Myanmar very closely and we see increased challenges to conduct our operations according to our standards and requirements,” H&M previously said.
In June, a notable incident occurred at the Hosheng Myanmar Garment Factory in Yangon, where seven workers were dismissed for advocating negotiations concerning work conditions and improved compensation linked to enhanced skills and seniority incentives. This action was driven by the exceptionally low wages prevalent in the industry. The factory, a producer for Zara, witnessed around 600 workers initiating a strike on June 12 to demand the reinstatement of the seven dismissed workers. The strike was abruptly terminated when the employer brought in the military on June 13 to intimidate the workforce.
Throughout 2023, numerous similar occurrences have unfolded. IndustriALL Global Union and industriAll Europe have renewed their call for the European Union to withdraw its support for the Made in Myanmar project, which inadvertently aids Myanmar's military junta. These organizations also advocate for the discontinuation of preferential tariffs under the Generalised System of Preferences. IndustriALL asserts that EU citizens and public funds should not contribute to the military junta's benefit and should not be associated with projects funded by the EU where workers are subjected to threats, dismissals, or unwarranted arrests.