Hey guys! So its now May (how pls) and this month we will be exposing the one and only…..UNIQLO!
UNIQLO is a clothing company, which was originally founded
in Yamaguchi, Japan in 1949 as a textiles manufacturer. It is now a global brand with over 1000 stores around the world.
According to their website, their clothes are ‘simple and
essential yet universal, so people can freely combine them with their own unique styles…’
That’s all good but here’s my fave part; UNIQLO’s reasoning
for why they do what they do: ‘Because if all people can look and feel better every day, then maybe the world can be a little better too.’  LOOOOOLL.
Despite how cringey this sounds however, it looks like it’s
working, as according to Forbes, UNIQLO has a brand value of $7b, with sales of $11.4bn recorded in May 2016 . In addition, it turns out UNIQLO’s CEO Tadashi Yanai is the richest man in Japan!.
As with most retailers, UNIQLO’s financial growth has done little to ensure the wellbeing of those who it depends on to achieve its level
of monetary success. Check out what’s been lowkey going on recently in UNIQLO supplier factories, and information on how you can get in contact with them and demand answers!
Last year, War on Want and Students and Scholars against
Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) released a report revealing findings from four of the 70 factories in China that produce for UNIQLO. These factories had been recognised by UNIQLO as the best-performing factories. Here’s what they found:
EXCESSIVE WORKING HOURS:
Standard working hours per month in these factories is 174
hours, excluding the excessive overtime hours added on top of this. However in many cases this was largely exceeded. Indeed, in one factory, workers were working 132 hours of overtime, while in another, workers were working 150 hours overtime- nearly the same amount as two full time jobs for less than a living wage.
In some cases, workers were required to work from 7:30am to
midnight, seven days a week. Often they weren’t given leave to take a rest, working these excessive hours for two months straight. When production was at its peak, workers had to soak their feet in hot water to relieve the pain and fatigue after standing for hours.
Due to wages being so low, workers are compelled to work overtime. This is exacerbated by the fact that workers are not properly paid for overtime e.g. workers were not paid double on weekends when they were supposed to.
UNSAFE WORKING ENVIRONMENT
There were many health hazards found in UNIQLO factories,
High temperatures: Factory floors are found to be at very
high temperatures, for example, on the knitting floor of one factory it was 38°C.
No protective gear: Men were seen working topless whilst women were found working in sweat-drenched clothes. In addition, workers in dyeing departments were expected to work with heavy loads of fabric that weighed up to 600kg with no protective gear, risking burns or chemical exposure.
Poor ventilation: Poor ventilation and a high density of cotton fibre in the air increased the risk of byssinosis (a serious occupational asthma and respiratory irritation). Moreover, as cotton dust is combustible this can, and has, led to dust explosions.
Use of toxic chemicals: The use of harmful chemicals in some
factories has led to toxic waste water flooding factory floors, exposing the workers to these chemicals and also exposing workers to the risk of electrocution.
Falls from 2-metre high stepladders are found to be common
when working with rolls of yarn- as workers are in a rush to meet targets.
Many factories use harsh protocols to ensure workers are
meeting targets and ensure product quality. For example, in one factory, workers’ wages were deducted if the quality of their work was not up to standard or if they were found resting outside their 30-minute lunch and dinner breaks.
Fines were also issued. For example, at another factory, a worker had his entire wage for the day deducted when he was caught attempting
to iron two sleeves at the same time instead of one at a time.
In another factory, workers were encouraged to report mistakes
made by colleagues. Money would be deducted from the salary of the worker who made the mistake, and transferred to the salary of the worker who had reported the mistake.
Managers regularly used the factory broadcasting system to name and shame workers who weren’t hitting their production targets. At one factory, if workers could not reach the target, other workers would have to take on the extra work.
NO UNIONS ALLOWED
It is extremely hard for workers to voice their concerns, as
there is no collective, democratic body representing workers in negotiations with management.
In one factory, the chairperson of the union was also the manager at the factory, therefore making it easier to quash any attempts to advocate workers’ rights.
At the same factory, it was heard that when workers organised a strike against low wages in 2009, management hired gangsters to physically assault the workers’ leaders and suppress the strike. In another case, workers who had led a strike against high temperatures on the shop floor were dismissed.
In addition, in June 2015, a supplier of UNIQLO called Artigas Clothing shut down without notice and refused compensation for more than 500 workers. After hearing about the possibility of a closure in December 2014, 1000 workers went on strike and demanded that the company pay their pension and overtime payments. The police and factory management shut down the strike and forced workers to return to work, ignoring their demands.
When June 2015 arrived, workers slept in the factory for weeks to prevent the factory closing without giving the workers their compensation and pension payments, and wished to collectively speak to management. The factory owners rejected, so workers petitioned to the provincial government to resolve the dispute, which led to violent police repression and the detention of 150 workers.
One of the female leaders was given indefinite detention in an attempt to force workers to sign a ‘voluntary’ resignation if they wanted her release. 359 workers were pressured into signing through individual visits by management as well. Workers were forcibly removed to work in another factory, and workers wh were part of the collective action were dismissed. UNIQLO did nothing to support the workers.
BRIBERY TO GET AWAY WITH ABUSES
During factory audits, when inspectors come to check out the
workers’ conditions to report back to retailers, workers are often bribed (e.g. using a cash reward) and compelled to give responses the factory wants them to give. Considering that workers may be giving false information about their working conditions, it is worrying to think how much worse conditions may actually be.
This report caused a stir, and thanks to the ongoing campaigning of War on Want and SACOM, this January UNIQLO agreed to make its
supply chain public, making it easier to locate where UNIQLO’s clothes are made and therefore making it easier to track conditions, organise and build a stronger movement of workers in the area. Then in March, the pressure from campaigners further led to UNIQLO publishing their list of 146 core factory suppliers across seven countries in Asia!
In 2015, a factory making clothes for UNIQLO in Indonesia closed down, leaving around 4000 workers without a job, with four
months of wages unpaid and compensation amounting to nearly $11m! Workers have been forced into homelessness and unemployment with no support whatsoever from UNIQLO. Two years later and workers are still waiting for their wages and compensation. It’s absolutely ridiculous
In 2015, Human Rights Now (HRN) visited Cambodia and
found a supplier to UNIQLO, where a male worker revealed the horrific conditions workers were enduring. He was asked to work overtime almost everyday, including working 24 consecutive hours. However, he was never paid for overtime hours after 6 pm. In fact, after 24 hours of overtime shifts, workers were only given $5. If workers didn’t work overtime, their contracts would not be renewed. Workers from this and one other factory claimed that they were union members, which was why management refused to renew their contracts.
Many workers were said to pass out due to high temperatures and a lack of air conditioning. In addition, workers would not receive safety equipment such as goggles or a mask to cover their mouths and noses from the detergent odours in the laundry department. However, they wouldn’t
have been able to use the masks anyway, because of the high temperature of the room, making it difficult to breathe with them on. Workers would be forced to wear masks and goggles only when inspectors came.
In addition, the coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’
Democratic Union (CCAWDU) found that in 2014, 6,715 people were dismissed due to their active participation in labour unions. In late 2015, 50 workers were dismissed due to their union membership. In December the factory were ordered by the Arbitration Council to reinstate the 50 workers, but they refused. A strike began in February 2016, but instead of reinstating the workers, another 55 were terminated, and union members were refused contract renewals.
Now we know the situation It is our duty to stand in solidarity with the workers who are tirelessly risking their lives to stand up to UNIQLO, to work in dignity, and to ensure justice for themselves and their colleagues. They are out there risking their lives as union members,
protesting, allowing reporters to tell their stories. It is the very least we
This is a petition to demand UNIQLO to pay the Indonesian workers
who were layoff their wages and compensation: http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1819&ea.campaign.id=65507
CONTACT THEM: Let them know you know what they’re up to, and
that you are concerned.