Myanmar: International brands must urgently cease production in Myanmar | Joint Statement

See the list of signatories.

International brands must act urgently and cease all production in Myanmar to weaken the military dictatorship and force it to step down

On February 1st 2021, the military in Myanmar carried out a coup and arrested the elected government members and seized power as the State Administrative Council (SAC). On February 5th, when a general strike and street protest known as the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) began, women garment workers were on the frontlines. Some 3,000 women workers came by bus from their factories in the industrial zones to join the protests in Yangon.(1) Garment workers remain central to the CDM. Millions of people have taken to the streets, risking their lives and their livelihoods, to demand an end to dictatorship and in support of democracy for Myanmar.

Thousands of garment workers (90% of whom are women) have been on strike for months. The army and police have responded to the peaceful protests with deadly force, including shooting live rounds into the crowds. Thousands of people have been killed by the military and police in the past year. Thousands more have been detained, raped and tortured while in custody. Women trade union leaders and workers from the garment industry are among those killed and arrested. (2,3) In order to repress the workers’ opposition, military personnel have been deployed at factory gates, and martial law has been imposed in the industrial zones so that protesters are judged by a military tribunal under military law, risking years in prison.

Before 2010 many Western brands were unwilling to operate in Myanmar because they didn’t want to be associated with the draconian working conditions and other atrocities taking place under military rule. Along with 19 other brands, H&M, Primark, Tesco and New Look have signed an industry agreement (4) – known as Action, Collaboration, Transformation (ACT) – that commits to ensuring the local factories producing their goods uphold workers’ rights to a living wage, collective bargaining, safety and other guidelines for termination and compensation. ACT has ended operations in Myanmar, but many brands that have signed the agreement are still sourcing from Myanmar. This is unacceptable. Now that military rule has returned, the same ruthless conditions are recurring and workers’ rights cannot be ensured – why are brands not pulling out? (5)

Reportedly factory owners and employers are taking advantage of the coup to undermine worker’s rights. Many permanent workers have been sacked and replaced with temporary workers on a daily wage. Employers are also known to be working in collaboration with the army to destroy the trade union movement by informing on trade union activists, providing soldiers with names of trade union members they find problematic or who oppose the military coup and having them arrested. Most trade union organisers are now in hiding, yet still active in the movement.

Despite wages for garment workers in Myanmar being among the lowest in the world, multinational corporations are a significant source of income for the military junta. The cut-make-pack (CMP) garment sector exports for the fiscal year 2020/21 were reported to value US$3.24 billion. The garment industry in Myanmar constitutes US$6bn of annual exports (approx. 30% of all exports). Many factories sit on land owned by the military with rent from the factories funding them.(6) In addition to exploiting workers to fund the coup, the military is also widely reported to be exploiting natural resources to further finance their crimes. The destruction of people and destruction of the natural resources go hand in hand.

On September 3, 2021, two of the largest trade unions in Myanmar, the All Burma Federation of Trade Unions (ABFTU) and the Federation of General Workers Myanmar (FGWM) put out a joint statement condemning the actions of the employers and calling on Western brands to stop sourcing their products from Myanmar suppliers. (7) Garment workers organised in the Industrial Worker’s Federation of Myanmar (IWFM) as part of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar are calling for comprehensive economic sanctions. (8)

Given that over two-thirds of Myanmar’s garment exports are for the UK/EU and US markets, (9) we have an opportunity and an obligation to act in solidarity with the garment workers and all those opposing the coup and the military’s crimes in Myanmar.

We, the signatories of this statement, join the trade unions of Myanmar in their call for international brands and retailers to urgently take action:

1. Withdraw from Myanmar to put pressure on the military dictatorship to step down.

2. When withdrawing, consult with Myanmar’s trade unions and develop an exit plan to ensure transparency and due compensation is paid to all workers, and contribute humanitarian aid to the workers and people of Myanmar.

3. Publicly join the international condemnation of the military coup in Myanmar and call for democracy to be restored. Actively support the Civil Disobedience Movement, trade unions and the National Unity Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (NUG) in their efforts to stop this brutal military dictatorship.

See the list of signatories.

Action for Argentina UK
Adl Cobas, Italy
All African Women’s Group, UK
All Burma Federation of Trade Unions (ABFTU), Myanmar
All Pakistan Federation of United Trade Unions (APFUTU), Pakistan
Alliance for Social and Economic Justice, US
Alliance of Radical Booksellers, UK
American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), US
Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, UK
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF), UK
Associazione Ambiente, Italy
Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union (BAFWU), UK
Bangladesh Apparel Workers Federation
Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation, Bangladesh
Bent Bars, UK
Black Solidarity Committee: National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, UK
Bread and Roses TV, UK
Brent Trades Council, UK
Burma Action Ireland
Cambodian Workers Labour Federation Union (CWLFU), Cambodia
Caminante Cultural Foundation, US
Campaign Against Criminalising Communities, UK
Campaign for Public Policy on Mineral Resources (PPM), Thailand
Caracol Olol Jackson, Italy
Caribbean Labour Solidarity, UK
Chiapas Support Committee, US
Citizens Against Enforced Disappearances, Malaysia
Colectivo Prostitutas de Sevilla, Spain
Community Resource Centre Foundation, Thailand
Community WHRD Collective in Thailand
Confederation of Trade Union Myanmar (CTUM), Myanmar
CS Bocciodromo, Italy
Communication Workers Union (CWU), UK
Decolonise Queen Mary, University of London, UK
Dhaatri, India
Doctors in Unite, UK
Dorset Radical Bookfair Collective, UK
Durham Miners’ Association, UK
Ecological and Cultural Study Group, Thailand
Ecumenical Peace Institute/CALC, US
Empower, Thailand
English Collective of Prostitutes, UK
European Rohingya Council
European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)
Every Mother is a Working Mother Network, US
Family Farm Defenders, US
FARSA, Feminist Artivists Association, UK
Federación Nacional Trabajadoras y Trabajadores del Hogar Perú Fenttrahop, Perú
Federazione Italiana Lavoratori Chimica Tessile Energia Manifatture (FILCTEM-CGIL), Italy
FEMNET, Germany
Food First, US
Food Not Bombs, Myanmar
Food Not Bombs, US
Forces of Renewal Southeast Asia, UK
Foundation for Women, Law and Rural Development-FORWARD, Thailand
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal UK Campaign, UK
Free Rohingya Coalition, UK
Garments and Sweater Workers Trade Union Center, Bangladesh
GenDev Centre for Research and Innovation, India
Global Justice Bloc, UK
Global Justice Ecology Project, US
Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum, US
Global Women’s Strike, UK/US/ Ireland/ Peru
GMB Union, UK
Haiti Action Committee, UK
Haqooq e Khalq Movement, Pakistan
HomeNet Pakistan
Housmans, UK
Huelga Mundial de Mujeres Perú, Perú
Hunger Action LA, US
Indian National Garment and Leather Workers Federation (INGLWF), India
Indian National Textile Workers Federation (INTWF), India
Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar (IWFM), Myanmar
Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific, US
International Federation of Iraqi Refugees, UK/Iraq
International Committee of the Free Workers Union (FAU)
International Confederation of Labor (ICL)
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, UK
International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU)
International State Crime Initiative, UK
International Trade Union Congfederation (ITUC)
International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific)
Just Economy and Labour Institute, Thailand
Justice for Peace Foundation (JPF), Thailand
Kachin State Women’s Network, Myanmar
Karen Women’s Organization (KWO), Myanmar
KhonLaoHaiNgam Anti Mining Group, Kalasin, Thailand
KhonRakBamnetNarong , The Anti-Potash Mining Group, Chaiyaphume, Thailand
KhonRakBanKerd in 6 villages, The Anti Gold Mining Group, Loei, Thailand
Kisan Ekta Morcha, India
Korea Center for United Nations Human Rights Policy (KOCUN)
Krong Kao Kang, Thailand
Land Worker’s Alliance, UK
Lawyers’ Rights Watch, Canada
Legal Action for Women, UK
Legal Action for Women, UK
LILAK : Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights
March on Harrisburg, US
Malaysians against Death Penalty and Torture
Naked Punch, Pakistan
National Alliance of Women Human Rights’ Defenders (NAWHRD), Nepal
National Family Farm Coalition, US
National Garments Workers Federation, Bangladesh
National Indigenous Women Forum (NIWF), Nepal
National Lawyers Guild-San Francisco/Bay Area, US
National Union of Students, UK
Nijera Kori, Bangladesh
No Borders Manchester, UK
No dal Molin, Italy
No Grandi Navi, Italy
No Sweat, UK
Northern Police Monitoring Project, UK
Northern Thai Labour Network, Thailand
Old Anglican Catholic Movement, US
One Law For All, UK
PA Women’s Organization Alga, Kyrgyzstan
Payday men’s network, UK/US
Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), UK
Peace and Justice Project, UK
Peace, Justice, Sustainability Now! US
Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor, Malaysia
Phulbari Solidarity Group, UK
Pour une Ecologie Populaire et Sociale (PPS), France
PROGRESS Kalimantan (Palangkaraya Ecological and Human Rights Studies), Indonesia
Queen Mary Community Solidarity, UK
Queen Mary Rent Strike, UK
Queer Strike, UK
Radio Marsinah, Indonesia
Raging Grannies, Ireland
RakBanHeang,The Anti-Mining Group, Lampang, Thailand
RakKhamPaLai, The Anti Mining Group, Mukdahan,Thailand
RakLamKhoHong The Anti Mining Group, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand
RakWanonNiwat , The Anti Mining Group ,Sakon Nakhon, Thailand
Red Square Movement, UK
RESISTer’s Dialogue, Philippines
Rohingya Action Ireland
San Francisco Living Wage Coalition, US
Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union Education Sector Committee, Ireland
Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union Section, Dublin City University, Ireland
Shelby x Studios, UK
Sindacato Italiano Lavoro Ambiente Solidarieta, Italy
Solidarity Center, US
Southern Peasent’s Federation of Thailand (SPFT), Thailand
Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM), UK
Tarangini Foundation, Nepal
Thai Network of People Who Own Mineral Resources, Thailand
The Center for Trade Union Rights and Human Rights (CTUHR), Philippines
The Centre of Law and Society in a Global Context, UK
The Community of Khao Lao Yai-Pha Jun Dai Forest Conservation Group, NongBualamphu, Thailand
The William Gomes Podcast, UK
Tim Kerja Perempuan dan Tambang (TKPT), Indonesia
To Mov, Greece
Trades Unions Congress (TUC), UK
Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), UK
University and College Union (UCU), UK
University and College Union (UCU), UK
UNIFOR, Canada
Unite the Union, UK
United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE), US
US PROStitutes Collective, US
Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA), US
UWUA Local 132, US
We Women Lanka network, Sri Lanka
Wessex Solidarity, UK
Women Against Rape, UK
Women for Justice and Peace in Sri Lanka, UK
Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike, UK/US
Women’s League of Burma (WLB), Myanmar
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Greater Philadelphia Branch, US
WOREC, Nepal
Worker Hub for Change (WH4C), Malaysia