ETI urges fashion brands to exercise regular due diligence

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2022-09-13 18:27:17 – Myanmar

According to a report commissioned by The Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI), it is impossible for companies to exercise regular due diligence with respect to human rights in Myanmar, which is why the ETI's Base Code standards, a set of standards for workers' rights that serve as a global benchmark for ethical business practice, are not being met.

The research offers solid proof of forced labor and industry-wide exploitation, including workers who endured long hours, little pay, unpaid overtime, and abuse. In accordance with international labor norms, employees in Myanmar are also unable to exercise their right to freedom of association. It is quite alarming that this privilege is being restricted, especially considering how important it is for workers to have access to grievance procedures.

The examination also uncovers a sizable proportion of employees with insecure employment, as well as incidents of sexual assault and complaints of possible child labor. Military intervention has severely restricted civic freedom, making it impossible for civil society and the international organizations that responsible corporations can often rely on to function normally. Due to these limitations, it is extremely dangerous for those concerned to advocate on behalf of employees or provide access to effective grievance channels and/or remedies.

According to the paper, under these circumstances, firms have very little influence over the larger policy and political environment. Normal interaction is significantly hampered even inside supplier factories by a fear-based mentality and practical factors.

ETI says that companies are thus unlikely to be able to genuinely interact with workers or their representatives, while their suppliers are subject to demands which undermine the rights of their employees and undercut attempts toward transparency. In this setting, we come to the conclusion that it will be extremely difficult for brands to do basic human rights due diligence, let alone the heightened due diligence that the current situation in Myanmar requires.

According to the ETI, the research unequivocally shows that there is evidence of egregious human rights violations in the garment manufacturing industry in Myanmar. However, not every factory was included in the scope of this analysis. Furthermore, the study made little mention of the sector's importance for the military politically or financially. Finally, the research made it quite evident that without the jobs that garment manufacturers provide, a sizable portion of employees would suffer greatly, and some would become homeless. Any move that a firm does must take into consideration this later fact.

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