Fast fashion, small paychecks: UNIQLO’s sweatshop labor practices
A sign for Uniqlo is shown on it's store, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011 in New York. | Mark Lennihan / AP

Fast Retailing Co. Ltd, a Japanese apparel company which operates UNIQLO brand shops across the world, in its annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report boasts that it is keen on improving employees’ working conditions in order to fulfill its responsibility as a global company. However, in reality, those who actually make UNIQLO clothes are forced to work excessively long hours with very low wages.

Poor working conditions in UNIQLO-related factories in China were revealed by the Hong Kong-based NGO, Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM).

SACOM conducted undercover investigations at Chinese contractors of Fast Retailing with support from the Japanese NGO, Human Rights Now (HRN), and the Chinese labor rights organization, Labor Action China.

The organization carried out undercover operations three times. In the first operation in 2014, HRN looked into textile and garment factories in Guangdong Province operated by Pacific Textiles Ltd (PT) and Dongguan Luen Thai Garment Co., Ltd (DLTG) respectively.

In January 2015, SACOM and HRN published their investigation report, immediately causing an international outcry. HRN Secretary General Ito Kazuko said, “After we uploaded the report summary onto our website, it attracted a large number of viewers in a single night. I was surprised at so many reporters coming to our press conference announcing the report.”

The report described shocking working conditions in the two factories. In both factories, workers’ base wages were at a level of one-third of the average wage in each city. The monthly pay was 1,550 yuan ($227 U.S.) for workers at the PT factory in Canton City and 1,310 yuan ($192 U.S.) for those at the DLTG factory in Dongguan City.

Alexandra Chan, a project officer of Hong Kong-based labor monitoring group Students and Scholars against Corporate Misbehavior, or SACOM, speaks while displaying a photo of a bare-chested factory worker in China making products for Japanese fashion giant Fast Retailing Co. during a press conference in Tokyo. | Koji Sasahara / AP

As these factory workers’ base wages were too low to make ends meet, workers had no choice but to work overtime for 112-134 hours a month. This violated China’s legal upper limit on overtime of 36 hours a month. A PT worker said to SACOM investigators that he/she worked eleven hours a day and was given only one or two days off in a month. A DLTG worker said that he/she worked from early in the morning until 10 pm or 11 pm and was sometimes ordered to work on Sundays.

PT workers said that when they organized a strike in 2009, the company used gangsters to deal with the striking workers with physical violence.

The SACOM report calls on Fast Retailing to end its use of sweatshop labor.


CONTRIBUTOR

Shimbun Akahata
Shimbun Akahata

Shimbun Akahata (しんぶん赤旗) is the daily newspaper of the Japanese Communist Party.

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