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General News    H3'ed 4/13/15

UNIQLO, Japanese Fast Fashion Label, Accused of Labor Violations

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Reprinted from www.corpwatch.org

Chinese factories in Dongguan and Guangzhou that supply UNIQLO - a "fast fashion" label owned by Fast Retailing Co. from Japan - have been accused of endangering their workers' lives, according to a new report from Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM), a Hong-Kong based labor rights group.

SACOM worked with Labor Action China (LAC) and Human Rights Now (HRN), a Japanese non-profit, to conduct research on two UNIQLO suppliers in 2014 - the Luen Thai factory in Dongguan and Pacific Textiles factory in Guangzhou. The report revealed that excessive working hours, low basic wages, unsafe working environments and harsh punishments for workers were rampant in both factories.The activists say that Fast Retailing needs to do a better job of supervising working conditions in their factories.

"UNIQLO is an international brand, not just a Japanese brand. I don't think UNIQLO can tolerate defects in its clothing," Alexandra Chan Hiu-ching, project officer for SACOM, told the Associated Press. "I think UNIQLO should have high standards for its factory conditions as well."

The report is an indicator of an increasingly assertive labor movement in China. Over 1,000 strikes and protests were reported between June 2011 and the end of 2013 in China, of which 40 percent were conducted by factory workers. And in 2014, 40,000 workers in Yue Yuen shoe factories, the world's largest shoes manufacturer for big brands like Adidas and Nike, went on strike to demand (successfully) that their employers in Shenzhen make pension payments required under the law.

Excessive Working Hours and Low Basic Wages

Pacific Textiles supplies textiles to garment factories while Luen Thai makes clothes for global apparel and accessory companies. Both are headquartered in Hong Kong. The first company offers its workers a basic monthly pay of RMB 1550 ($246) while the second offers RMB 1310 ($208) which are the minimum wage levels for the cities they work in.

In addition, workers are paid bonuses by the piece, so most put in as many hours as they can in order to earn as much as possible, even though they are not forced to.

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CorpWatch: Non-profit investigative research and journalism to expose corporate malfeasance and to advocate for multinational corporate accountability and transparency. We work to foster global justice, independent media activism and democratic control over corporations.

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Yet despite the very public impact of their actions and decisions, corporations remain bound to be accountable solely to their own private financial considerations and the interests of their shareholders. They have little incentive, nor requirement, for public transparency regarding their decisions and practices, let alone concrete accountability for their ultimate impact.

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