Chinese firms shut Primark brand factories in Yangon

More than 2,200 workers will lose their jobs, union leaders say.
By RFA Burmese
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Chinese firms shut Primark brand factories in Yangon Workers making garments for the Primark brand sit outside the Guo Tai factory in Shwepyithar’s War Ta Yar Industrial Zone, Yangon on Feb. 28, 2023.
Solidarity Trade Union of Myanmar

UPDATED AT 07:28 p.m. ET ON 03-06-2023

Two Chinese-owned garment factories in Yangon’s Shwepyithar Industrial Zone are shutting down, leaving more than 2,200 workers without a job, according to a local union. The factories make clothes for the Irish multinational fashion retailer Primark.

The Solidarity Trade Union Of Myanmar made the announcement on its Facebook page Tuesday.

Guo Tai Garment Industrial Park and GY Sen in Shwepyithar’s War Ta Yar Industrial Zone said workers would continue sewing remaining orders and then lose their jobs, Myo Myo Aye, president of the Yangon-based union told RFA. 

“Before departure, they will finish the remaining orders and their order deadline is the end of March,” she said.

“The GTGI office on this side has 1,200 workers. GY Sen’s branch on the other side originally had over 1,000.”

She added that the two factories paid compensation to the workers, but said staff, and the junta’s Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population were not told in advance about the closure plan. The companies did not give a reason for shutting the factories.

International fashion brands are coming under increasing pressure from their customers and shareholders to shun Myanmar due to its human rights record. Primark said it decided to make what it called a "responsible exit" from Myanmar following September's publication of the Ethical Trade Initiative, an independent assessment of human rights and business conduct in the country.

Even so, a spokesperson said Primark was shocked by the decision to sack workers without warning.

"These allegations are extremely concerning and our local team on the ground in Yangon is currently investigating," the spokesperson told RFA.

"As we work to exit Myanmar responsibly, we expect our suppliers to comply with our Code of Conduct, which includes protecting the safety and rights of workers. While both of these factories have been suspended for some time, we still take our responsibilities to these workers very seriously."

Textile worker.jpeg
Textile workers from the Golanatha suburb of Yangon in a file photograph from Sept. 18, 2018. Credit: AFP

Myanmar is facing a major economic crisis following the Feb. 1, 2021 military coup. A quarter of the population of eight Yangon townships, including Shwepyitha and Hlaingtharyar, have struggled to survive without wages for the past year, according to the report released by the United Nations Development Program Yangon Branch on Feb. 16. 

Unions fighting for workers’ rights and helping the jobless have been blocked by the junta, which has declared 16 of them – including the Solidarity Trade Union of Myanmar – illegal.

Myanmar was listed among the 10 worst countries in the world for violating labor rights in the 2022 Global Labor Rights Index compiled by the International Trade Union Confederation.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn.

Story updated to include Primark's response.


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