As UNIQLO pops the champaign in Europe, deprived garment workers knock its door in Japan

published 09-10-2018 03:25, last modified 11-10-2018 02:10
Today two garment workers, part of a group of 2000 workers from Indonesia, tour Japan calling on UNIQLO after the retailer turned down a request to meet earlier this week. The tour is part of the global Pay Up UNIQLO campaign taking place in Europe, the US, Indonesia and East Asia, uniting campaigners and workers in support of the worker’s fight for 5.5M USD in compensation after loosing their job when the Jaba Garmindo factory in Indonesia went bankrupt in 2015, two months after UNIQLO pulled its orders from the factory.

Labour rights campaigners demand the fast fashion giant act immediately to settle the long running dispute with the workers for the payments they are owed in lost wages and unpaid severance. On April 10 2015 workers at the Jaba Garmindo factory were told that their employer had gone bankrupt and their factory was closing. Thus began what has now become a three year struggle to recover millions of dollars still owed to the mainly women workers, many of who had been employed at Jaba Garmindo for at least a decade.

Warni, one of the workers in Tokyo says: “It was clear UNIQLO had a lot of influence of our factory’s business. When UNIQLO orders would come in, they bought new machines and made investments. We received high targets for each day which meant many overtime hours. At times I sewed 900 sleeves in one day. We couldn’t even take toilet breaks. When my husband got very ill and had to go to hospital, I was refused to take my holidays to care for him and I lost him.”

Mirjam van Heugten from Clean Clothes Campaign says: While UNIQLO’s CEO flies back and forth to Europe popping the champaign and opening new stores, Warni and her colleagues have accumulated high debts. When factories close without paying its workers their wages and severance payments, this amounts to wage theft. The consequences for the workers are severe and lasting. International standards mandates that companies must prevent, mitigate and remedy possible human rights violations in their supply chain, which is where UNIQLO shamefully fails, letting Warni and her colleagues pay the price. UNIQLO can and should pay, just as other brands like adidas and Nike have paid in similar cases of factory closures.”

Prior to the closure, in April 2014, UNIQLO was contacted by labour rights activists following reports of labour violations including unlawful termination of pregnant workers, unpaid overtime, health and safety hazards, and trade union harassment at Jaba Garmindo. Around the same time that these disputes became known, UNIQLO had stated it decided to withdraw production from the factory as a result of “quality issues.” Final production was completed for the Japanese brand in October 2014. In January 2015 workers reported that wages were no longer being paid on time, by April 2015 the company had gone bankrupt, leaving workers unemployed and without the wages and severance they were owed.

Warni, Teddy, and their colleagues, along with their supporters around the world are now calling on Uniqlo – which last year saw their profit rise by 38% - to make sure the former Jaba Garmindo workers are paid what they are owed. In taking such action UNIQLO would join many other global brands – including H&M, Nike, adidas and Walmart – who have rightfully assumed responsibility and provided workers with unpaid severance following a bankruptcy and factory closure.
Mirjam van Heugten from Clean Clothes Campaign says: “Uniqlo is desperate to be known as an important and influential player in the fashion industry. It wants to be Japan’s answer to H&M. However, such recognition brings with it an expectation of responsibility. UNIQLO needs to show it is serious about such an international status by immediately agreeing to meet with and negotiate a settlement with Warni, Teddy and their colleagues.”