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Discussion begins on responsible exit from Myanmar

2 November, 2022IndustriALL Global Union has begun discussions with garment brands on a responsible exit from Myanmar, due to the deteriorating human rights situation and the impossibility of doing due diligence.

Representatives of IndustriALL and of the Myanmar trade union movement met with representatives of garment brands to discuss a framework for a responsible exit, as required by the UNGPs and the OECD.

This follows a disinvestment campaign by IndustriALL, and a report, commissioned by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), that concluded that due diligence and freedom of association are not possible in Myanmar, and that trade unions cannot function. Following the release of the report, IndustriALL wrote to garment brands inviting them to meet to discuss the principles of a responsible exit through the lens of the OECD Guidelines. A number of brands have announced their intention to cease production in Myanmar, while others responded to the invitation to discuss possible exit requirements in more depth.

IndustriALL is calling on brands to place no new orders in Myanmar, and to wrap up unfulfilled orders, ensuring that workers receive all outstanding wages and all legal entitlements as well an additional payment to support their transition. A challenge is that without a functioning social security or legal system, it is difficult to ensure that workers are paid what they are owned.

There are also a number of outstanding cases of workers’ rights violations, including the targeting of trade unionists, wage theft and forced overtime, that need to be resolved.

IndustriALL general secretary Atle Høie says:

“Too many brands maintained production in Myanmar, some possibly out of a genuine conviction that it was the right thing to do.

“However, the ETI report was unequivocal: it is not possible to do business ethically and responsibly in Myanmar. We welcome the fact that the discussion has moved to exiting from the country, while meeting responsibilities to suppliers and workers.

“Our campaign for comprehensive economic sanctions and the release of political prisoners, including more than 60 trade unionists, for the isolation of the junta and the restoration of democracy will continue.”