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Agreement with H&M proves instrumental in resolving conflicts

7 January, 2016A global framework agreement (GFA) signed between IndustriALL Global Union and Swedish clothing company H&M has been an accelerator in reinstating sacked workers at garment factories in both Myanmar and Pakistan just a couple of months after it came into force.

The GFA, which was signed in November 2015, serves to protect the labour rights of 1.6 million workers in H&M’s global supply chain.

In Myanmar, the GFA was key to getting trade unionists back to work, as well as achieving trade union recognition at the Jiale Fashion factory in Yangon.

Eight union leaders were sacked at the garment factory in October 2015, leading to a month-long strike. The Confederation of Trade Unions in Myanmar (CTUM) reported the dispute to IndustriALL’s South East Asia regional office, which invoked the GFA with the H&M Sustainability offices in Yangon and Sweden, especially as the case raised issues on freedom of association.

H&M Sustainability then pushed for dialogue through both their local office in Yangon and Jiale Fashion’s owners in Hong Kong.  H&M Sustainability, IndustriALL and CTUM were involved throughout the process until an agreement was reached between workers and the factory.

As well as reinstating the dismissed workers, the factory agreed to recognize the factory trade union, the Jiale Basic Labour Organization, which is affiliated to CTUM and IndustriALL through the Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar (IWFM).

Khaing Zar, assistant general secretary of IWFM said:

“Building trust between workers and management is the key to industrial peace. The formation of the Workers’ Coordinating Committee at the factory will improve workplace cooperation and, of course, the biggest achievement is the recognition of the trade union at Jiale Fashion.”

IndustriALL textile director Christina Hajagos-Clausen said:

“The GFA is founded upon a shared belief that well-structured industrial relations are essential to a stable and sustainable production model. This type of collaboration is crucial for lasting improvements for the garment workers in H&M’s supply chain.”

In November 2015, 88 workers at the Denim Clothing Company (DCC) factory in Pakistan were sacked for demanding their rights. The dispute began when five worker representatives were sacked on the spot for asking to discuss issues such as a lack of social security, insurance, and salaries below the minimum wage that often were paid late. When 83 of their colleagues stood up for them, they also lost their jobs.

As part of the newly signed GFA with H&M, both parties worked to bring the 88 workers back to work through joint negotiations with IndustriALL Pakistani affiliate NTUF and the local management at Denim Clothing. All workers were reinstated with full pay from 26 November, the date they had been fired. 

Nasir Mansoor, deputy general secretary NTUF, says that thanks to the GFA and the efforts from IndustriALL’s regional office the issues were speedily resolved:

“With a proactive brand the GFA is an efficient tool for dispute resolution and a great instrument to protect workers’ rights.”

Abdul Jabbar, one of the affected workers, concludes:

“This shows us the power of workers coming together and the strength of international solidarity to resolve crises. It not only gave us great courage, but did the same for other workers in the factory, as well as workers in other factories in the area.”